- Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced this week the appointment of Ana Lopez Van Balen as the city's first Affordable Housing Preservation Officer.
The @MayorBowser administration is doing more than ever to preserve #affordablehousing for our residents. Today, we welcome Ana Van Balen as the District's first-ever Affordable Housing Preservation Officer: https://t.co/4hQo2nVI8Y pic.twitter.com/tPJIYlu0j6— DC DHCD (@DCDHCD) March 5, 2018
- Lopez Van Balen, who has more than 15 years of experience in housing and community development, previously served as National Director of Community Development and Innovation at Urban Strategies.
- "When I established the [Housing Preservation] Strike Force in 2015, its mandate was clear—develop an action plan that ensures the District does not lose any of its already existing affordable housing," Bowser said in a statement, noting that Lopez Van Balen will "serve the residents of DC well."
While prioritizing affordable housing is a trend that has shaped the narrative and definition of "smart cities" in recent years, appointing a dedicated officer to oversee affordable housing is unique. Many local governments have established housing authorities, which tackle affordable housing among other housing programs, but DC's decision to truly hone in on affordable housing preservation is a smart move for the city.
DC has undergone significant gentrification since 2000, particularly in its Northeast and Northwest neighborhoods. The city launched an Inclusionary Zoning program in 2009, requiring 8-10% of residential floor area be set aside for affordable rental, and while the program has seen results, most of the units have benefited single people or couples, not large families. Additionally, Curbed reports that data from Apartment List indicates a racial discrepancy in homeownership in the city — the homeownership rate is 63.7% for white households, compared to 43% for both black and Hispanic households.
Though Mayor Bowser has invested more than $110 million in affordable housing, it is evident that more can be done under Lopez Van Balen's leadership.
Outside of housing, Mayor Bowser and the Office of the CTO has led the city toward smart development in a number of ways, landing DC the title of Smart Cities Dive's City of the Year in 2017. Moving forward, folks should keep an eye on DC for its leadership in bike friendliness and its work in AV tech deployment.