NAHC Chairman Testifies before the D.C. Cooperative Task Force

Editor’s Note: On July 20, 2019, Greg Carlson, board chairman of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives, spoke before Councilwoman Anita Bonds and the District of Columbia City Council in support of its report from the Cooperative Housing Task Force. NAHC President, Fred Gibbs, and government relations specialist, Judy Sullivan, also attended the hearing. Here are excerpts from that testimony.

Good afternoon Councilwoman Bonds (and members of the District of Columbia City Council),

It is an honor to testify today in support of the findings of the Cooperative Housing Task Force. I am Greg Carlson, chairman of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives, representing over one million housing cooperative units nationwide including almost half a million limited or zero equity dwellings, we think) housing cooperatives are the best and most economical form of homeownership available today.

We applaud the efforts as well as the foresight of the D.C. City Council members in seeking limited equity cooperative (LEC) solutions which can pave the way for hundreds of D.C. families to enjoy many of the benefits of homeownership. The findings of the task force provide a unique opportunity for D.C. to lead the nation in finding a solid solution to the affordable housing crisis facing our country today. For a small investment in LECs, low-income citizens can own their home. At the same time, because it’s a LEC, this housing remains affordable for future cooperative homeowners.

NAHC supports the findings of the task force:

  • That support the creation, financing, and strengthening of affordable cooperatives as an essential part of D.C.’s affordable housing strategy;
  • To help current struggling LECs to improve their current organizational structures and finances in order to become financially, physically and organizationally healthy cooperatives; and
  • To ensure that all such cooperatives and their members receive appropriate and affordable training, technical assistance and property and asset management support necessary for the cooperatives to succeed.

Our members include both market-rate and LECs. The following D.C. cooperatives through our Potomac association members are examples of some of our D.C. housing cooperatives:

  • Second Northwest Cooperative (145 units for low- and moderate-income members/no availability with an over one-year waitlist);
  • Southern Homes & Gardens Cooperative (83 units/no availability);
  • 2540 Massachusetts Owners Cooperative (35 units);
  • Hacienda Cooperative, Inc. (66 LEC units/ no availability);
  • Lightview Cooperative, Inc. (74 units/no availability);
  • Brandywine Chesapeake Cooperative, Corp.;
  • Madison Terrace Cooperative (45 units);
  • Benning Road Housing Cooperative (86 LEC units/no availability);
  • East Capital Gardens;
  • The Mendota Apartments (48 units/no availability);
  • St. James Mutual Homes (107 units/no availability); and
  • Beecher Cooperative, Inc. (LEC/no availability);

Please note that most of these cooperatives have not only, no current available units but also have very long waitlists of in many cases, a year or more, indicating the desirability of current residents to remain in these units.

Furthermore, in the Beecher Cooperative, for example, residents usually pay 30 percent of their gross income for rent. The rent amount, less approved U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) deductions such as medical and childcare expenses and other allowances, includes a utility allowance. HUD residents also may choose to pay what is known as flat rent. Beecher Cooperative is a low-income housing cooperative subsidized by HUD.

Today, many cities all across America are experiencing a similar lack of affordable housing. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., recently reintroduced legislation, S. 1772, to establish a “Task Force on the Impact of the Affordable Crisis Act in 2019.” S. 1772 already has 15 bipartisan Senate cosponsors.

Other cities are also tackling a lack of affordable housing:

The city of Oakland, Calif., recently passed a proposal, the Preservation of Affordable Housing Fund (PAHF), to allocate $12 million to create a municipal fund for community land trusts and LECs to take housing off of the speculative market by acquiring and preserving rental properties with 25 or fewer units. “This fund is a bold investment in a visionary solution that… puts (properties) permanently in the hands of Oaklanders,” said Oakland Council member Nikki Fortunato Bas.

In Tampa, Fla., RentGirls The Sadowski Fund, officially the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, is a dedicated source of revenue that helps pay for local and state housing programs across Florida. It was created in 1992 with an increase to the state’s documentary stamp tax, a 0.07 percent fee on deed transfers, promissory notes and other official records. The proceeds of that increase are supposed to be split roughly 70/30 between local governments for programs that offer down-payment assistance to homeowners and pay for repairs to existing housing and state programs that help fund affordable housing development.

D.C., by creating the task force and supporting its recommendations in support of LECs is leading the country in finding realistic solutions to its affordable housing crisis. We agree with and support both the policy and financing action items outlined in the task force report.

In conclusion, the National Association of Housing Cooperatives urges the D.C. City Council to accept and adopt the Policy, Administrative and Financing Recommendations of the Limited Equity Cooperative Task Force to create an affordable solution to help alleviate the shortage of affordable housing in D.C. today.

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