Council of the District of Columbia
The Committee on Public Works and Operations
Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, Chair
Testimony in Support of
B25-282 “Housing Subsidy Contract Stabilization Amendment Act of 2023”
Unity Health Care, Inc.
Unity Health Care, the largest network of community health centers in the District of Columbia, is pleased to provide written testimony in support of the Housing Subsidy Contract Stabilization Amendment Act of 2023. This legislation addresses the critical issue of renewing long-term subsidy contracts (LTSC) for Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) units.
As one of the main healthcare providers for the lowest-income residents reliant on housing subsidies, we witness firsthand the profound impact of housing stability on health outcomes. Housing is a critical social determinant of health, and the availability of safe, affordable housing is intrinsically linked to access to healthcare services. In that spirit, we support policies and initiatives that preserve and expand housing subsidies, recognizing their pivotal role in averting homelessness and enhancing the overall well-being of the individuals and families we serve.
Our Healthcare for the Homeless program is an integral part of our mission, serving approximately 10,000 individuals annually at over 10 low-barrier homeless shelters and respite care facilities across the District, and via our mobile outreach van. Homelessness and housing instability have severe implications for the health of individuals and communities. Individuals experiencing homelessness face increased risks of chronic health conditions, mental health challenges, and substance use disorders. Housing instability can lead to heightened stress, trauma, and disrupted access to essential healthcare services. The Housing Subsidy Contract Stabilization Amendment Act of 2023 will equip the District with an additional tool to mitigate these issues by safeguarding current affordable housing options for residents disproportionately impacted by the current housing shortage and economic disparities.
This legislation seeks to grant the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) the authority to renew long-term subsidy contracts without the encumbrance of competitive bidding, particularly for projects that are essential to the well-being of residents earning at or below 30% of the Median Family Income (MFI). The continued availability of these subsidies is vital for residents who cannot afford market rent, and for the owners of these projects who rely on subsidy income to sustain their operations. Additionally, this legislation recognizes the importance of supporting the owners of LRSP projects. By providing predictable subsidy income, it ensures the viability of affordable housing projects, enabling them to maintain the quality of housing and necessary services. This is crucial in our efforts to impact health by improving the environment in which our patients live, supporting efforts to address social determinants of health, and improving the continuity of healthcare services to residents in need.
In the District of Columbia, there is a critical lack of affordable housing options for low-income individuals and families. There are only 40 affordable and available rental homes per 100 extremely low-income renter households. Tragically, 73% of these households are spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs and utilities, leaving families with scant resources for food, school supplies, diapers, medicine, and other basic necessities.[i] Black, Latino, and Asian residents experience much higher poverty rates than their white counterparts, with a substantially larger share of households earning less than the 2019 federal poverty line ($25,750 for a household of four, and $12,490 for a single-person household).[ii]
The challenges of residing in a District with high living costs are borne disproportionately by minority, low-income families. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize that the majority of LRSP beneficiaries are Black and Latino residents, many of whom are Unity patients. The proposed legislation plays a pivotal role in ensuring that these patients can continue to rely on this subsidy, thereby averting the detrimental cascade of health consequences triggered by housing instability.
We commend the DC Council for considering this vital legislation and urge a favorable report. We believe this policy will help preserve affordable housing and increase housing options for residents facing an ever-tightening supply. Thank you for your dedication to improving the lives of DC residents, and for considering our perspective on this important matter.
If you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to our policy lead, Fiona Mesfun, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[i] National Low Income Housing Coalition (2023). The Gap. https://nlihc.org/gap
[ii] Council Office of Racial Equity (2021). D.C. Racial Equity Profile for Economic Outcomes. www.dcracialequity.org/dc-racial-equity-profile