- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

Washington's economy is on the right track, but the District needs more affordable housing, private/public partnerships and help from the federal government, city officials said yesterday at a local economic summit.

Business leaders and government officials gathered at XM Satellite Radio's headquarters in Northeast to discuss the economic recovery of the city and how to sustain it.

"It's doing remarkably well overall, but we could be doing better," said Debby Lindsey-Taliefero, associate professor of economics at Howard University. "It's still struggling."

Because the District relies more heavily on the private sector than it has in the past, the city is feeling the effects of the stock market plunge, she said.

In addition, companies dependent on government business are waiting for possible homeland security contracts that could pump part of a proposed $37.7 billion in federal spending back into the local economy.

Miss Lindsey-Taliefero, who thinks the economy probably won't improve until the fourth quarter, said the lack of affordable housing in the District needs to change.

The city must increase its housing stock with new units and massive renovation of existing ones, as well as fostering multidevelopment areas around Metro stops, she said. This would help increase the number of D.C. employees who live in the city.

In addition, Miss Lindsey-Taliefero said consumers need to be educated and ready to purchase when the housing becomes available.

According to Eric Price, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, the city is on the right track.

He said there is $17 billion worth of construction either completed, in the process, being planned or proposed for the city. That includes nearly 34 million square feet of office space, nearly 5 million square feet in retail space and more than 27,000 housing units.

"We need to become more strategic," using public resources to make private investment easier, Mr. Price said.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who spoke at the summit yesterday, said one of the key elements to sustaining the District's economy is "a permanent, elastic federal contribution to the city" and full representation on Capitol Hill.

Like many city officials, Mr. Williams is optimistic about the city's economic recovery.

"Our best days are yet to come," he said.

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