Metropolitan Washington's fair share housing plan: potentials and limitations

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


In 1972 the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) adopted a fair share plan for the purpose of allocating assisted housing among its sixteen member jurisdictions. The primary objectives of the plan were to avoid further undue concentrations of low and moderate income housing in the center of the area and to provide lower income families with housing opportunities in the area's suburban jurisdictions where many lower income jobs were being created. Reflecting these two objectives, both the original and revised formulas contained factors which served to allocate a large percentage of housing funds to those affluent suburban jurisdictions which had very little assisted housing. This skewed distribution, COG believed, would result in a balance of assisted housing throughout the area, resulting in increased potential mobility for the area's lower income.

In spite of the plan's successful implementation, the potential mobility of the area’s lower income has not been greatly enhanced. The primary reason for this is the area's extremely high housing costs and the overwhelming need for assisted housing in all jurisdictions. Many of the area's moderate income families literally have been priced out of the housing market and must now compete with lower income families for the relatively scarce assisted housing.

If the housing needs of the area's residents are ever to be met, and if fair share is to achieve the objectives for which it was designed, the area's moderate income families must once again become competitors in the housing market.