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DC mayoral candidates sound the alarm on gentrification and offer affordable housing solutions

Democratic district mayoral candidates are promoting plans to create more affordable housing, criticizing gentrification plans that have sparked new construction across the city but also pushed some residents out of their longtime neighborhoods .

Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is seeking a third term, faces major challenges from former attorney James Butler and unrelated DC board members Trayon White (Ward 8) and Robert White (at-large) . The Democratic primary is set for June 21.

A key issue in their campaigns is the city’s economic and population growth, which has highlighted a need for affordable housing.

Ms Bowser cited her housing production trust fund, which has raised around $1 billion since it took office in 201, as a resource for thousands of affordable, subsidized homes and highlighted its goal of adding 12,000 affordable housing by 2025.

“We need people who sincerely believe — like me, like my DC government team — that we can change the trajectory of housing in DC,” Ms. Bowser said in a press release.

However, an inspector general reported last year that DC officials wrongly spent nearly $82 million in affordable housing funds.

Mr White, who represents one of the poorest neighborhoods in the district, castigated the mayor’s fund as a ‘slush fund’ which has benefited developers at the expense of minority residents.

“We are being forced out and the gentrification is orchestrated by the government,” Mr White said at a recent forum attended by all four candidates.

He has long been a supporter of expanding affordable housing and tenants’ rights during his time on council. He also unsuccessfully advocated for the creation of the Office of Housing Stability, an agency that would seek to prevent housing displacement for city residents.

Similarly, Robert White argued that pouring more money into a problem is not a solution that will solve the root cause of the shortage.

The county council member wants to turn vacant city center office buildings into affordable housing, while partnering with developers to build more family-friendly housing.

Mr Butler, meanwhile, wants to extend rent control to new apartment buildings and require that every building developed by the government include space for a minority-owned business.

Butler also said the district has a gentrification problem that trumps other major US cities.

“It’s a huge problem,” he told The Washington Times. “DC has moved more black and brown families since it started experimenting with gentrification.”

Because the district is a heavily Democratic city, the winner of the primary usually becomes mayor after the November general election. DC’s registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 9 to 1.