On May 27, the Council will hold their first vote on the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, the single most important piece of legislation this year. DC for Democracy is working with the Fair Budget Coalition to ensure that important investments, particularly in affordable housing, are maintained, and to urge the Council to increase investments in such programs as rent supplements and tenant protections.
We have prepared the following letter to Councilmembers and hope that you will join the steering committee in signing it. We will hand deliver the letter to the Councilmembers in the next week.
Dear Councilmember ________,
We are members of DC for Democracy, a progressive all-volunteer grassroots organization that promotes the political empowerment of ordinary citizens. We are residents, voters and taxpayers in the District of Columbia who appreciate that the annual budget is the single most powerful tool for aligning our government with our values.
DC for Democracy is an active member of the Fair Budget Coalition and we support their recommendations for the FY2016 budget. In particular, we applaud the investment of $100 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund. This sum would create and preserve 1,000 affordable units a year, a modest response to the affordable housing crisis in our city. The Council should commit a minimum of $100 million to the HPTF every year into the foreseeable future.
We urge you to expand the funding for the Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP). Government policy has promoted the influx of wealthier residents to our city, fueling gentrification and displacement. If the Council is serious about protecting the diversity and stability of our communities, it must increase funding for rent supplements.
We also urge you to beef up staff at the Office of the Tenant Advocate, which serves approximately 300,000 renters in DC. The Council has passed good laws to protect tenants, but they are meaningless if not enforced.
We are pleased that the Mayor has proposed extending the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) for the next fiscal year. The 6,000 families who desperately need these funds should not be penalized for the flaws in the program’s management. Until those flaws are fixed, these families should be guaranteed the benefits.
The budget engagement meetings made clear that the public places a high priority on the vital programs listed above. The Council loses credibility if it fails to fund these services claiming a lack of resources, while offering tens of millions of dollars in tax subsidies to wealthy corporations, and piling up billions of dollars in reserves. Neither can we believe we lack resources when the wealthiest residents pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than low- and moderate-income families, and polls show they are willing to pay their fair share. If the Council fails to fund these desperately needed services, the public will lose faith that the Council is committed to solve our most pressing problems. The District of Columbia is a city of immense wealth; let us use it for a purpose we can be proud of.
In closing, the budget must reflect the values of the people of the District of Columbia. We will pay close attention to the budget debate and your vote in the expectation that the FY16 budget will provide the resources necessary to make the District of Columbia a more just and equal community.