March 7, 2017

The Thought Leadership Series on Housing Affordability in Greater Washington began in partnership with Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers to highlight the challenges with housing in the region and to develop consensus on ways forward.

Over an 18-month period, LGW members and other local leaders have come together to share knowledge and explore solutions to the complex problem regarding the housing crisis facing Greater Washington. In addition to a new understanding of this complicated issue, LGW members have also committed to improving affordable housing in the region by utilizing a resource guide of the  “Top Ten” Ideas for Housing Affordability.

At our first session of the series, ‘Affordable Housing 101,' LGW offered a foundational primer on affordable housing in the region to establish a framework for understanding the challenges and opportunities of the regional housing dynamic. One of the main takeaways of the session identified a major deficit in the supply of affordable worker housing options to serve a large number of individuals living within and contributing to the region’s economy.  According to a member in attendance, “I thought the presentation was at just the right level – 101 for people like me who don't know much more about this topic than what we read in the newspaper, and sophisticated for those who have a more significant background [with affordable housing].”

During LGW’s second session, LGW continued the conversation by exploring the intersection between 'Housing, Transportation and Employment' in the region. The principal intention of LGW’s program was to demonstrate the interplay between those issues. With their overlap, LGW highlighted the need to bring both employers and transportation stakeholders together with a multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional approach to drive change. As Victor Hoskins, Director of Economic Development for Arlington County stated, "Affordable housing, transportation and economic development are intertwined but always looked at separately. There is massive internal and external conflict to combine the issues and look at them together.”

LGW leaders took the field for our third learning session for a closer look at some affordable and successful housing developments in Arlington, VA.  Throughout ‘A Closer Look at Affordable Housing,’ local housing leaders highlighted the concrete development of seven projects that are transforming lives in Arlington, all with close access to Metro, economic centers, and high-quality schools. From transportation savings to expanded academic access, our featured experts demonstrated those projects can serve as models for how Greater Washington can support practical housing options and ensure equitable entrée to the region’s robust economy. LGW heard directly from local leaders regarding working with public opinion, securing major investment resources, and supporting sustainability in how residents access the housing supply.

For our series’ fourth session, ‘Regional Housing Solutions,’ and in subsequent meetings, LGW began to broach creating a regional compact around a way forward between the region’s stakeholders – commercial enterprise, public institutions, local and state governments, and the philanthropic communities. LGW leaders were encouraged to support land-use policies in their home jurisdictions to help transform outdated suburban infrastructure into denser housing options. LGW’s audience was also encouraged to buy into Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers’ ‘Our Region, Your Investment’ program and the Enterprise Community Impact Note, to help deliver the critical resources necessary to support further sensible housing developments.

We tossed the conversation back to the region’s top workplaces in our fifth session, ‘Solving the Housing Crisis for Employers,’ where we welcomed private-sector leaders for an important dialogue on what’s being done in HR departments around the region to attract and retain a talented workforce facing high housing costs. Mortgage assistance, transportation allowances, worker housing programs, and flexible telecommuting options, all help ease the situation.

Similarly, one of our guests raised an important point to the physical housing landscape; “The thing you can see visibly in Washington – the hidden asset – is the height restriction. We have more room to build here, but we’ve limited how high we’re going to go.”

LGW’s penultimate session before wrapping up the Thought Leadership Series was hosted following the Presidential election in 2016 and entitled, ‘Housing Affordability with a New Administration.’ With the help of several housing policy leaders, LGW surveyed the political landscape and projected possible changes to several important federal housing programs that impact the Greater Washington region. We discussed possible changes to federal funding mechanisms for housing and how the region’s jurisdictions would be impacted by: reducing the value of tax credits that make investment in affordable housing projects viable; the degree to which the mortgage-interest deduction would impact residents with high-value homes; and how federal appropriations for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies would impact the critical housing resources for residents and communities all around the country.

For our final wrap-up session on legislative updates, LGW welcomed several local policy experts to speak to the progress of various housing efforts around the region, post-state budget approvals. LGW engaged around the variety of victories and challenges unique to the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, and Maryland. 

Following our locally-focused panel, we wrapped up the final session with a frank discussion on the ways forward against the housing crisis. Among the top recommendations were cutting the costs of housing, increasing funding mechanisms to provide for new projects, and to revolutionize land use policies across the region in order to favor more sensible housing developments.

We encourage you to review the list of “Top Ten” Ideas for Housing Affordability and invite you to identify what actions you will personally take to help to contribute a positive impact concerning housing affordability in Greater Washington.

LGW is proud to have convened leaders from the region's businesses, and from the public sector, academic, and philanthropic communities to address this issue. Housing affordability affects every aspect of Greater Washington's growth into the future. From attracting talent to top employers, to supporting socioeconomic and social equity, to ensuring basic needs are met for the region, this crisis must be solved. And to that point, Leadership Greater Washington is committed to continuing to work with all stakeholders to keep the dialogue open.

Thank you to all of LGW’s partners, esteemed guest experts, and LGW leaders who made this first run of our Thought Leadership Series on Housing Affordability a success. We look forward to continuing this conversation and supporting positive action.

Please view photos from the event here.
The final Thought Leadership session occurred on 6/1/17.