The following is a transcript of an interview with Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser that aired Sunday, July 17, 2022, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the more startling numbers from last week's Consumer Price Index was the cost of rent, which is soaring at the fastest pace in 36 years. Here in the nation's capital, average home rental costs have jumped more than 11% in just the past year. The national rate is nearly 6%. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has made the push for affordable housing a part of her agenda, and she joins us. Good morning, Mayor.
MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So I want to ask you, the New York Times had this piece on the housing crisis and homelessness in America and it highlighted D.C. as just one of those cities that has just persistently not had enough housing to meet demand. You've been working on reducing homelessness. Is the prime issue supply?
MAYOR BOWSER: Well, we've been working on creating affordable housing and producing more and preserving more, and we are among the jurisdictions, I would say, that lead the nation in being a local partner in-in production. So just in the last seven years, we've invested more than $1.4 billion in doing exactly that. We're equally invested in making homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring in our city. And we have a plan to get there. We've seen our rates of family homelessness, for example, decreased by 78%. Chronic homelessness, also, we're attacking and driving those numbers down for most categories. So what we see is in a city like ours, where people want to live and want to work, that we always have to be producing more housing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, I'm wondering then in an environment where we are now where interest rates are going up, is that discouraging builders from producing what you need? Do you need the federal government to step in and provide some sort of support?
MAYOR BOWSER: Well, we certainly are going to be able to do less with the very historic investments that we've made. So, we're concerned about that. But what I know that we're-we're doing everything locally that we can. We have a tool called the Housing Production Trust Fund. On this year alone, we'll invest $450 million in new units. We've set a goal of building 36,000 new units. So, we're always looking for the federal government to be a partner, and I have to say, that in coming out of this pandemic, and everything that the federal government was able to do to help cities like ours keep people housed with American Rescue Plan dollars, with making sure that we're preventing evictions, and keep-keep people from getting evicted, has been very helpful.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Washington Post reported last week that homeless shelters in D.C. were filling up. And groups are getting overwhelmed by these buses that the governors of Texas and Arizona are sending here full of migrants. How significant is this influx? How many people?
MAYOR BOWSER: Well, this is a very significant issue. We have for sure called on the federal government to work across state lines to prevent people from really being tricked into getting on buses. We think they're largely asylum seekers who are going to final destinations that are not Washington D.C. I worked with the White House to make sure that FEMA provided a grant to a local organization that is providing services to folks. But, I fear that they're being tricked into nationwide bus trips when their final destinations are places all over the United States of America.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So it's not just local taxpayers picking up the tab, you're saying the federal government is helping.
MAYOR BOWSER: Well, local taxpayers are not picking up the tab and should not pick up the tab. And we really need a coordinated federal response. We know that it's done for refugees who come to the States from all points of the world, and the same has to be done in this situation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I also want to ask you about monkeypox. 108 infections here in the district, according to the CDC numbers. Is the outbreak more significant than that? And, are you prepared for the spike, when it comes to available vaccines? Your-your Democratic colleague in New York City says he needs more vaccines.
MAYOR BOWSER: We need more vaccines. We've gotten just over 8,000 doses, we estimate that we need about 100,000 doses to address the current target population. So, we need more doses, for sure, and we know that that work is being done. We already have a very robust testing regime, and we've modeled it on what we were able to do with COVID. And we're going to continue to test, and I think because of that robust testing, we're going to see more cases, but we want people to pay attention on to ways to protecting themselves, especially by getting vaccinated when the vaccine is available.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Has the federal government promised you those doses?
MAYOR BOWSER: We know our health department works with the CDC and others. And so as the-as the vaccine is available, we're going to be ready to distribute it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I also want, you have a big portfolio here, in the nation's capital.
MAYOR BOWSER: Indeed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the risk of political violence. Homeland Security has warned the entire country should essentially be prepared for more political violence. How are you planning for it here in D.C.?
MAYOR BOWSER: Well, we, as the nation's capital, we're kind of always on high alert, as-as a target of all manner of political violence. And unfortunately, we've seen that of a domestic nature. In the last several years–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –Supreme Court justices, January 6.
MAYOR BOWSER: January 6, the events of surrounding the murder of George Floyd, all, but we also see, we see demonstrations of First Amendment protests throughout the year. Some you don't hear about but our police are out there working every day to make sure people can peacefully protest, but also keep our city safe. So it is an ongoing high-level interaction with our federal partners, including federal Homeland Security, all the federal agencies that are in D.C., but our Metropolitan Police Department is there to support them, in many cases and leading others.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Mayor Bowser, thank you for your time.
MAYOR BOWSER: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for coming in today.
MAYOR BOWSER: Thank you. My pleasure.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be right back with more Face the Nation.
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