Who will you pick for DC Council at-large on April 23?

Question 4

We asked the candidates:

Mayor Gray has set a goal of growing by 250,000 residents in 20 years. Previous mayors had similar goals. GMU studies suggest we need over 122,000 new housing units (each of which might hold multiple people) by 2030. How can and should the District accommodate this growth?

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Matthew Frumin responded...

The theme of my campaign is "Let's grow together."

Our current growth is very exciting, but we must ensure that growth going forward benefits all of our communities and brings us together and does not work to divide us. That philosophy should be the compass point as we seek to meet the aggressive goals for growth in the coming decades.

To accommodate that growth we should:

  • Follow through on the efforts to develop major projects like Walter Reed, St. Elizabeths, MacMillan Reservoir, the Southwest Waterfront and The Yards.
  • Encourage mixed use developments in our commercial corridors and near Metro, streetcar and bus lines to concentrate new residents in places where they can be the least dependent on cars.
  • Support efforts to create innovative and smaller dwelling units, as is being done in other jurisdictions, particularly on currently unused land.
  • Facilitate the process through which homeowners may create limited and supervised accessory dwelling units.

We once had a population over 800,000, so the current goal is achievable. When we get there, however, we need to be certain that we have preserved and strengthened our greatest asset — the diversity and beauty of our wonderful neighborhoods. To do that we must make an unshakeable commitment to strengthening our stock of affordable housing and making housing affordable to our workforce.

Meeting our goal will also require much more than simply building the necessary housing stock. We must also invest significantly in our infrastructure. Once again, as an example, our schools become a key factor. We have many new residents, but if we want them to stay we must strengthen our schools.

On the Council, I will continue, as I have as an ANC commissioner, to work to support strategies for smart growth and affordable housing. I will also continue to work to promote investments in schools, parks and transportation infrastructure that can make our city increasingly attractive to potential and existing residents. In 20 years, let's be a city that is seen as the place to be for new young residents and for seniors.

Let's grow together.

Elissa Silverman responded...

This question gets at the heart of one of the biggest challenges we face in the District. Certainly we want to welcome new residents, who help grow our tax base, enrich our civic life and make our city dynamic and evolving. Yet we need to integrate these new residents in a way that does not disregard or ignore those residents and institutions who have been in the District for a long time, contributed for many years to our tax base and civic life, and have deep roots in our city that are meaningful.

As at-large councilmember, I will champion three areas to address this challenge.

  • First, I will make affordable housing a top priority in our city's budget. The District should have good housing options for all types of residents: interns out of college, families with or without kids and seniors who are living on a fixed income. I will protect and improve upon one of the best tools we have to do this: the Housing Production Trust Fund. I want to change the trust fund from being tied to the deed and recordation tax, which is volatile, to a budgeted line item. I also think we need to enforce our inclusionary zoning law and work with developers to build multiunit housing for all kinds of households, not just studios and one bedroom apartments largely geared to singles.

  • Second, I will continue to make a varied transportation system a top priority. We need to add residents without turning our streets into gridlock or a game of Frogger for pedestrians and bicyclists. We need to smartly invest in Metro, expand bus service, and continue to look for ways to get people out of cars.

  • Third, I will work with the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, the Department of Employment Services, and the Workforce Investment Council to make sure we have a strategic plan for jobs so that both newer and older DC residents benefit from the growth. This has been part of my work at DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and I'd love to serve on the council's workforce committee.

John Settles responded...

To grow the city's population by 250k over 20 years I would create a Strategic Growth and Retention Plan. This plan should be based upon the mantra; Jobs Attract, Homeownership Roots, Education Stabilizes, and Public Safety Secures.

Given the competition with the suburbs, rising housing prices, underperforming schools in many communities and, increased street crime, we must proactively address these issues to ensure we don't lose population. The city must attract approximately 400,000 given the transient nature of the city. We must continue to create neighborhoods that are culturally unique, and thus more desirable than "urban" developments in suburban neighborhoods such as Ballston. Transformational projects that add housing stock and create neighborhoods should be the central long term focus of the Strategic Growth and Retention Plan. For example Hill East, the former site of DC General Hospital, has great potential to become a world renowned sustainable urban village that provides a carefully crafted mix of housing units ranging from micro-housing to senior cottages and town homes wrapped around neighborhood businesses all digitally powered by Google fiber, thus providing the best bandwidth capability and speed in the region.

In order to manage growth and welcome new residents, we need to create a diversity of affordable housing stock and unit sizes, across the entire city, especially in underdeveloped neighborhoods where investment has been lacking. These neighborhoods should be focused around new anchors — local businesses, green space, art and cultural centers and transportation nodes that connect the neighborhoods to employment and entertainment centers. Development should enhance the lives of current residents instead of displacing them, or creating financial burden. A Smart Growth plan, customized to the identity of neighborhoods is the best way for DC to remain the attractive metropolis it is. We need carefully crafted development plans that retain existing families and attract new families as well as young professionals and empty nesters. We need to become more entrepreneur friendly and create more well-paying, knowledge based jobs.

Paul Zukerberg responded...

My growth plan has 3 parts:

  • a green, bikeable, walkable city
  • a big push on affordable housing
  • safe and affordable Metro

Washington is a beautiful city. We need to keep it that way as we grow. Walking and biking are the healthiest ways of getting around, both for the individual and our environment. Paul actively supports Safe Routes to School, WABA, and pedestrian- friendly DDOT streetscape projects.

We will not see any growth if people cannot afford to live here. DC has an affordable housing crisis. Longtime residents are being forced out by high rents.

Other prices are way up too. Gas and electric, water, telephone — forget about cable or internet. Metro fares rose in 2012, and payroll withholding taxes went up again on January 1. Working people, students, and those on fixed income are being squeezed hard.

We need to move forward on affordable housing in a big way this year. Developers want to ease height restrictions, and we should consider allowing limited increases, in exchange for an affordable housing component in every project.

We also need to fight PEPCO rate increases and higher property taxes. One way is to keep lobbyists off of the Council.

Our greatest transportation resource — our wonderful Metro bus and rail system — is in decline. The past five years have seen safety lapses, poor service, high crime and fare increases. The 60 cent Metro fare is now $2.10. Add distance charges, and a single trip can cost $5.75. No wonder Metro ridership is down. Safe and affordable Metro is the key to future growth.

Perry Redd responded...

The city is a finite place, with limited natural resources, such as water and "green space." To develop a rational, deliberate, and sustainable plan for population growth, one must ask who would benefit and who would be harmed by this initiative. Would this goal displace longtime, less educated and affluent residents? Who would be the targeted audience for marketing campaigns?

To successfully carry out this vision, all stakeholders must be actively engaged in every phase of development from inception through implementation. Factors for consideration include:

  • revisions to regulatory and zoning requirements to permit taller, multi-family buildings
  • how to manage increased infrastructure burdens resulting from more vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and fiscal and municipal needs.

The city has numerous problems trying to balance its desire for growth with its obligation to address current social needs. The Mayor and Council continue to shutter schools and homeless shelters. Without knowledge of the city's 20-year plan for public education, the prospect of 250,000 more residents could backfire without a realistic, credible plan for delivering high-quality education to elementary and secondary school students. Furthermore, public lands and facilities are not for sale, nor as giveaways to private developers. With pride in our public assets, we can creatively repurpose public assets (closed school buildings), so that they are used to provide needed social services, such as housing for low-income persons.

In addition, in 2010, 30,012 residential vacant properties were on record; that was a 13.2% growth since 2000. Therefore, if DC were to fully fund creatively designed programs that include rigorous monitoring for effectiveness, cultural competence, and responsible legislative oversight, then a new model of governance could emerge where .smart. growth coexists with human and social services, including housing supports for our residents with the lowest incomes.

Such initiatives, if coupled with non-profits and small businesses, could become a model of responsible and accountable growth. It could demonstrate our city's commitment to OneCity, driven by policies founded on reduced income inequality; a realistic plan to eliminate child poverty; living wage, union jobs; the expansion of housing options for all; and sustainable living.