New Administration, New Direction?

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Affordable housing has long been a debatable topic in Washington, DC, and with the uncertainty of the Trump administration affordable housing might receive a new distinction.

President-elect Donald Trump is considering an aggressive plan to increase spending on public works (infrastructural projects), and this has put fire under everyone from policy experts, to lawmakers, and big business to lobby for their piece of the infrastructural pie. Everything from electric car charging stations and fast internet networks are being pushed into being considered a future project. It’s believed if the US government is spending less on climate change (which people expect it will), there’d more to spend in other areas.

Such is the case for Mrinalini Ingram, Verizon’s vice president of smart communities, who recently spoke on infrastructure in the District of Columbia. Ingram promoted Verizon’s networking technology placed in LED street lights; and blue-light kiosks where citizens can reach police.

IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty recently wrote a public letter to Trump asking him to “think smart” while mulling over going big. “The country should focus on infrastructure investments that incorporate Internet of Things (IoT) technology and artificial intelligence to improve performance,” she wrote. She pushes for the feds offfering incentives for states and localities, so small governments can focus on intelligent and secure roads, bridges, buildings and other public facilities.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mike Cornett hopes to see more interest placed on updating aging sewer and water projects. He’s hoping the federal government will get behind the measure because private money doesn’t generally show much interest in specific and costly projects like this.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser puts affordable housing in that category of the infrastructure. She told the Washington Post, “I would like us to think about affordable housing as part of our critical infrastructure.”

Cornett generally doesn’t have much to add with Bowser’s comment, but does seem to fall more in line with Rometty’s thoughts. He thinks focusing on areas like autonomous cars will allow for upgrading a dilapidated public transit infrastructure and improvements in American science and technology.

The bottomline is, infrastructural projects are becoming more than bridges, roads, and pork barrel projects. “We have to be confident that we’re investing in things with common benefits, not like digging holes. The outcomes have to be consistent with our national priorities,” mentioned Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

It’s still uncertain how the reality TV star is going to jumpstart infrastructure spending; or even more importantly: how much will be public vs. private funding. One possibility comes from equity investor Wilber Ross, and University of California at Irvine business professor Peter Navarro. They both has the idea of creating a federal tax credit which could could cover 82 percent of the private equity on massive projects. This would allow the private market to decide project directions, instead of national priorities (this thought undercuts Grumet’s belief).

If Bowser gets her wish of a stronger emphasis on affordable housing, DC government will have pay closer attention to housing construction in hopes to avoid what happened with Insun Hofgard, a Virgina developer who had planned to turn six DC properties into luxury, but not before having already done that with nearly a dozen spots across DC. New homeowners eventually discovered shoddy construction; and while spending tens of thousands in repairs discovered much of the redevelopment under Hofgard was done without permits and several other violations of the city’s construction code.

Hofgard was being sued by the DC Attorney General’s Office before choosing to turn over properties in Petworth, Bloomingdale, Edgewood, and Columbia Heights to the AG’s Office via eminent domain, and pay $1.3 million in restitution to previous properties already sold.

The properties acquired will be turned over to the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DCDHCCD) and converted into affordable housing for low-income residents.

So however infrastructure are to be determined, everybody’s having to play the waiting game, but still putting their two cents in.

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