A recent Washington Post article asked the question: Should cities subsidize housing for a family making $141,000? The issue has been raised as DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed a $20 million workforce housing fund in the city to support the development of housing affordable to middle-income households. There has been sharp criticism from some advocates over spending millions of dollars to help higher-income households access housing when there is a need for more than $2 billion for critical health and safety repairs in the city’s public housing developments.
The District of Columbia is not alone in trying to figure out how to prioritize local funding and to balance the needs of extremely- and very-low income households with the growing challenge of maintaining middle-class households in the community. In Massachusetts, the $100 million Workforce Housing Initiative is providing assistance to developers of housing for middle-income housing. The City of Philadelphia recently expanded its Workforce Housing Credit Enhancement program which supports the development of middle-income housing.
While it is clear that housing affordability challenges have moved up the income ladder in many places around the country, it is also fair to ask whether limited public financial resources should be directed at serving middle-income households when the needs among extremely- and very-low income households are so dire. In addition, it is reasonable to analyze if cities are adopting sufficient land use and zoning policies (e.g. density increases) to help facilitate more housing overall even as they direct public money to support middle-income households.