The announcement comes as Bowser is seeking a third straight term as mayor in a city where evictions of longtime residents remain a top concern. In a February Washington Post poll, 14 percent of DC residents named housing or the cost of housing as the city’s biggest problem — after crime — though that number is down from 23 percent in 2019. More than 6 in 10 residents gave Bowser a negative rating for her achievement in creating and maintaining affordable housing, and her opponents have criticized her government’s efforts to prevent low- to middle-income residents from being evicted from their homes.
Bowser’s latest initiative aims to break down racial inequalities in homeownership, which her government says are “increasingly out of reach for black first-time homebuyers.” Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio pointed to new data from the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, showing that between 2016 and 2020, a first-time homebuyer with the average household income of a white DC resident — about $194,700 – equipped – could afford more than 70 percent of homes sold in the district, including all homes sold in predominantly black Districts 7 and 8.
In contrast, a first-time buyer with the income of an average black DC household — about $72,900 — could afford just 8.4 percent sold during that period, Falcicchio said.
This disparity has widened since the period between 2010 and 2014, when a first-time buyer with the median white household income could afford 67 percent of homes sold in the district, while those with the median black household income could afford 9.3 percent.
“Mayor Bowser will task the strike force with recommending policies and programs to address historic injustices that we have failed to address as a city and as a nation that have created racial disparities in wealth,” Falcicchio said in a statement.
Falcicchio said the city’s housing agencies, including the DC Housing Authority and the Department of Housing and Community Development, would be tasked with implementing the group’s recommendations starting in the fall.
He said the strike force’s work will be augmented by researchers from the Urban Institute as well as Howard University, who will assess the effectiveness of the city’s other distinctive housing programs, such as the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) for first-time home buyers and an inclusion zoning program built on it aims to increase the city’s affordable housing stock.
In recent weeks, Bowser has detailed other budget initiatives to help residents stay in the district, including a $4 million commercial real estate acquisition fund that will allow eligible businesses a down payment of up to $750,000 for the purchase of commercial buildings. Her budget proposal also increases funding for the HPAP program and other housing services for low-income homeowners and seniors.