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Mayor Bowser Increases District’s Authority to Purchase and Preserve Affordable Housing

Thursday, November 15, 2018
After Ten-Year Wait, New Regulations Allow the District Opportunity to Purchase Act to Take Full Effect

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced new regulations that will provide the Executive Office with authority, under the District Opportunity to Purchase Act (DOPA), to preserve more affordable housing for Washingtonians. The new regulations were developed at the recommendation of the DC Housing Preservation Strike Force, a committee created by Mayor Bowser in 2015 and charged with developing an action plan to preserve the District’s existing affordable housing.

“DOPA is a crucial affordable housing preservation tool, but without regulations to make it enforceable, the law had no teeth. When I came into office, I committed to changing that,” said Mayor Bowser. “After a ten-year wait, we will finally be able to use DOPA to preserve more affordable housing units for Washingtonians, and will be aggressively identifying properties beginning in the new year.”

The DOPA law was enacted in 2008 and requires rental property owners to provide the District with the opportunity to purchase housing accommodations consisting of five or more rental units, as long as at least 25 percent are deemed affordable. DOPA allows the District to purchase at-risk or problem affordable housing properties that an owner is offering for sale to other potential buyers, but only after the tenants have been unable or have chosen not to exercise their Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) rights within the prescribed timelines.

After DOPA was enacted, however, regulations were never issued to allow the law to take full effect. In November 2016, the DC Housing Preservation Strike Force listed the implementation of DOPA regulations as one of six strategies the District should use to preserve its affordable housing stock.

The final rules, which are the result of a thorough rulemaking process that began in December 2017, provide that the Mayor may assign the District’s purchase right to a developer. The DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is issuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to identify a pool of pre-qualified developers. The rules will be published in the DC Register on November 16, 2018 and go into effect the same day.

“Thanks to the hard work of the DHCD team, DOPA is now another tool in the Mayor’s toolbox of innovative affordable housing strategies,” said DHCD Director Polly Donaldson, who also chaired the Mayor’s Strike Force. “Not only did we play a key role in drafting the regulations, we also developed the criteria for pre-qualified developers, who must show at least five years of demonstrated capacity and successful experience in preserving affordable housing in the District.”

As DHCD announces DOPA purchase opportunities, developers who meet the District’s criteria will be invited to respond to those requests. The developers will have to comply with DOPA’s requirements by maintaining, and increasing the number of, affordable units in the property. DHCD will hold an informational meeting on the final rules on November 28 and a pre-bid meeting for developers on December 10. Details about the meetings can be found at dhcd.dc.gov/events.

The creation and preservation of affordable housing remains a top priority for the Bowser Administration. Last month, Mayor Bowser celebrated a record annual investment in affordable housing from the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF)—in fiscal year 2018, her Administration was able to commit $167.6 million from the HPTF to projects that will create or preserve affordable housing. Out of that $167.6 million investment, $76.2 million is committed for 16 preservation projects that will provide over 950 units.

Since coming into office, the Mayor has consistently exceeded her annual commitment of $100 million to the HPTF, increasing investments from $58.6 million in FY15 to $106.89 million in FY16 to $138.59 million in FY17 to $167.6 million in FY18. As a result, the Bowser Administration has been able to use multiple programs and tools to deliver 6,000 units of affordable housing, with an additional 5,200 under construction.