D.C. Council members were mostly all smiles Tuesday as they passed an $11 billion budget for 2013 with little of the rancor or harsh debate of recent years.
With a housing boom and fast-paced gentrification in nearly all parts of the city, the council followed Chairman Kwame Brown’s lead and restored $18 million to the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which helps support housing purchases for low- and moderate-income workers.
During the council vote Tuesday, housing activists wore bright yellow shirts demanding the cuts be restored.
“Right now we're losing the low-cost housing that's been available in the open market as we see an influx of higher income residents into the city,” said Elizabeth Falcon, a leader of the quiet demonstration.
Chairman Brown said it’s far more expensive now for even working families to afford rents and mortgages in the nation’s capital. He said even some people who work in the John A. Wilson building for the city “can’t afford to live in this city.”
In a nod toward that same gentrification, the council also voted to allow bars to remain open until 4 a.m. on holiday weekends -- that’s about 19 days a year -- instead of an extra hour year-round as Mayor Vincent Gray had proposed.
The council also restored cuts in funding for health care for illegal immigrants and supported additional funds for schools and school maintenance.
All in all, it was an easy budget compared to the battles ongoing in Maryland and Virginia, and Council finance chairman Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) couldn’t resist a shot at the city’s neighbors, saying the two states never missed a chance to criticize the District when it was in financial trouble. He said “neither seems to be able to pass a budget [now] and I just want to point that out.”
Mayor Vincent Gray issued a statement praising the council.
The budget faces a final vote in two weeks, although few changes are expected.