Will DC Be an Equitable City?

January 6, 2021

Home News and Updates Will DC Be an Equitable City?

Individuals & Organizations — If you understand the critical importance of adopting the Comp Plan, sign your name HERE to underscore your support to the DC Council. Keep reading to catch up on HPC’s journey to ensure the Comp Plan creates pathways to an equitable city for ALL!

2020. A year that none of us ever saw coming, and one that we will never forget. The simultaneous pandemics we face have only exacerbated the very real challenges our city is battling. And yet, one of our most critical tools to address housing affordability, racial equity and a number of other challenges is awaiting adoption by the DC Council. The Comprehensive (Comp) Plan is a guiding document that sets a long-term vision for the District, to help inform decision-making for residents, officials, and stakeholders. The plan is vital to land use, zoning and shaping the District’s budget. The Housing Priorities Coalition (HPC) calls on the Council to pass the updated Comprehensive Plan as soon as possible.

What We Know

  • The Comp Plan is a high-level guiding document that provides a 20-year framework for the future planning and development of DC. The document includes 25 elements and 2 maps, the Future Land Use Map and the Generalized Policy Map.
  • Although the Comp Plan allows us to be aspirational and intentional, the framework is largely a guiding document. It’s important that HPC stakeholders and the affordable housing advocacy community understand that the Council’s adoption of the Comp Plan is a critical first step; however, continued advocacy for policy and legislation that codifies the ideals presented in the Comp Plan will be necessary to ensure our City evolves into an inclusive city where all can thrive.
  • As it stands, the Comp Plan is outdated and does not provide the long-term vision for an inclusive city. The Comp Plan was written in 2006 and amended in 2011. Much has changed since then, and we must adopt an updated plan that reflects today’s conditions, opportunities, and challenges.
  • Inertia and outdated tools are barriers to achieving our best quality of life, including housing affordability, eliminating racial inequity, access to opportunities, and protecting the environment for future generations. COVID-19, its economic effects, and civil unrest highlight the need for the Comp Plan to appropriately guide the District through and beyond these events. We can’t afford to go any longer without an updated Comp Plan on the books.
  • The proposed updated Comp Plan benefits us all by: setting goals for affordable housing in every neighborhood; increasing capacity for new homes near Metro and along transit corridors in the Future Land Use Map; removing exclusionary language and using a racial equity lens throughout official decision-making; and facilitating construction of more than a thousand affordable homes stalled in legal limbo.

HPC Advocacy to Date

  • From 2016 through February 2020, the Office of Planning (OP) embarked on an unprecedented process, which included extensive outreach and engagement from the public to ensure the community’s voices were heard.
  • In October 2019, HPC successfully advocated for key amendments to the Comp Plan’s Framework Element. These revisions ensure that the Comp Plan prioritizes affordable housing and the prevention of displacement.
  • The revised plan also takes into account that where an individual lives is still one of the greatest predictors of health and economic outcomes. This updated version helps break down barriers to affordable housing across the City, which is a critical step in the District’s racial justice efforts.
  • In September 2020, the coalition sent a letter urging Chairman Phil Mendelson and the Council to review and approve the Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020 (B23-736) within 2020, and not delay its passage into 2021 or beyond.
  • In November 2020, our Coalition and over 700 community members presented testimony to the DC Council, reiterating calls to adopt the Plan. HPC’s advocacy is also compounded with thousands of comments from stakeholders who share our values on housing affordability and racial equity. This is truly a community document, and it comes to the Council having been rigorously reviewed, edited, improved, and refined.

What's at Stake?

Housing Affordability
  •  Metropolitan Washington is one of the most rapidly gentrifying regions in the nation.
  • With these shifts in our landscape and rising rents, many Washingtonians are facing the threat of displacement from the place they call home.
  • The very-low income households who are hurting the most with housing cost burdens are most likely to represent Black and Brown communities.
  • The updated Comp Plan sets a housing goal across ALL eight wards that at least 15% of a neighborhood’s homes be affordable. This will offer increased opportunities across the city to low-income and people of color, providing additional options for where they live, go to school, and work.
  • The Future Land Use Map amendments provide a 15% increase in housing capacity around transit, and advance proposals for hundreds of affordable homes and mixed income projects that are in limbo until the map is updated. It also provides more definitive guidance to the Zoning Commission, in response to court decisions which have stalled desperately- needed new housing.
Advances in Racial Equity
  • The plan update is a fundamental part of the District’s commitment to address its legacy of racial inequity. The Framework Element of the Comp Plan lays out a vision for an equitable District, with direction for examining equity in transportation, housing, employment, income, health, education, and socioeconomic outcomes, among other issues. The rest of the Comp Plan supports following through on this vision through land use, housing and other areas.
  • Proposed updates also address the stark racial inequities in the District highlighted by COVID-19 and the economic crisis. The pandemic remains a lethal threat for Black and Brown communities who have borne the burden of chronic disinvestment and continued insult resulting in unrelenting stress, job loss, and housing insecurity.
  • The proposed Plan works to reverse redlining, racial segregation, and other discriminatory practices. It also acknowledges the consequences of past and current planning on Black and Brown residents, including: wealth disparities; health outcomes; and housing security.
  • The DC Office of Planning (OP) has identified 91 policies and actions throughout the Comprehensive Plan that explicitly focus on advancing equity, titled the Equity Crosswalk. When implemented altogether these policies hold promise to deliver on the goals of equity established in the Framework Element and to make a tangible difference in the lives of DC residents who have yet to reap the benefits of the growth and change in the city.
COVID-19 Recovery
  • With Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) bearing the brunt of COVID-19 and its fallout, the District’s recovery efforts must be thoughtful, just and reparative to prevent any further harm to these communities. The updated Comp Plan is supports creating a path forward for our neighbors who have struggled the most.
  • DC Office of Planning has identified 96 policies and actions (the COVID-19 Crosswalk) throughout the Comp Plan update that explicitly guide the District’s COVID-19 response and recovery. These items position the Comp Plan to appropriately lead the city through and beyond the dual public health and economic crises, prioritizing recovery while affirming core values of equity, safety, prosperity and opportunity.

What Now?

HPC acknowledges that the Comp Plan is crafted to be a guiding document, and we stand behind the intended outcomes of the proposed update. Further, we are committed to continued advocacy with the Mayor, Council, committees and agencies to hold the City accountable to advancing policy that improves the quality of life for all Washingtonians. We are confident the Council can proceed in a timely fashion because the community has contributed to the extensive work for a Plan worthy of adoption. We urge the Council to treat the review and adoption of the Comp Plan as an urgent priority to help thousands of District residents, employers, and stakeholders have more sustainable opportunities to live, work, and grow. The time is now to move forward with the Comprehensive Plan.

About the Housing Priorities Coalition

The DC Housing Priorities Coalition includes: Enterprise Community Partners, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED), Somerset Development, Coalition for Smarter Growth, Greater Greater Washington, United Planning Organization, and Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND), Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

The Housing Priorities Coalition formed to help update the DC Comprehensive Plan, the land use policy that guides development decisions in the District.

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