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Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 07/27/2010

Too soon to judge D.C. affordable housing law

By David Alpert

In this Monday's Capital Business, Jonathan O'Connell noted that no affordable housing units have been established in the one year the law has been in effect ("D.C. affordable housing law has put up a goose egg"). That's presumably true but says virtually nothing. It's analogous to reporting that the Nationals have won zero World Series since signing Stephen Strasburg.

Of course, the Nats haven't won a World Series since signing Strasburg (or ever) because, in part, he hasn't been on the team long enough to play in one. Likewise, one year is far too short a time to judge the success of an affordable-housing law. It applies only to buildings begun after it went into effect, and many projects were already in the pipeline and thus exempt.

Those planned projects that are now eligible would create 11 affordable units out of 92 total units. That's 12 percent, a good ratio. It would be nice if there were more than 92 units in eligible buildings being built, but we know why that's the case: The economy is in the toilet. Just as we know that however good Strasburg is, the Nats will need a lot more than one pitcher to win the World Series.

Inclusionary zoning could have brought in many more units, but D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty decided to stall, possibly illegally, for almost two years before implementing the law. The D.C. Council kept passing laws insisting that the Fenty administration start inclusionary zoning, and Fenty kept ignoring them.

In the meantime, projects were built that would have created about 140 affordable units had the law been implemented.

O'Connell points out this fact at the end of his story. I guess "D.C. Affordable Housing Law Still Too New, Economy Still Too Poor to Actually Have Any Effect Yet But That Will Change Soon So Really There Isn't Anything Interesting to Report" wouldn't have made as good a headline. Oh well.

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By David Alpert  | July 27, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., D.C. politics, HotTopic, Local blog network, Mayor Fenty, development, real estate  
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