After witnessing the impact COVID-19 had on small businesses in DC, McCourt School students Nicholas Stabile (MPP ‘21) and Lindsey Volz (MPP ‘22) outlined a winning proposal to help ensure that longtime DC businesses are given the tools they need to remain in the city.
Students Nicholas Stabile and Lindsey Volz won this year’s Public Policy Challenge with their proposal “Buy Your Own Building.” Their proposal provides small businesses in DC the right of first refusal to purchase their buildings and creates a grant for equity impact enterprises in Wards 7 and 8 to assist with down payment. Every year, the Georgetown Public Policy Challenge hosted by the McCourt School, calls on graduate students to develop innovative policy solutions that help address a challenge in the local community. The winning team is awarded a $2,500 scholarship prize.
After speaking with several business owners in Ward 7 and 8, Stabile and Volz decided to develop “Buy Your Own Building.” “Buy Your Own Building” is based off of an already established DC law, the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) which is aimed specifically at residential tenants, and will be paired with a grant program working with equity impact enterprises to help Black and minority-owned businesses gain access to the funding needed to remain in the city.
“The proposal addresses a real issue facing DC – how do we ensure that longtime DC businesses are able to remain in the city in the face of gentrification,” said Chris Murphy, Vice President for Government Relations and Community Engagement at Georgetown University and a judge for this year’s Public Policy Challenge. “The local businesses that have been operating in DC for years – and that are often owned by people of color – help make DC the special place it is. We need to be doing everything we can to help them and I’m confident Nick and Lindsey’s plan will find many supporters, including on the DC Council. I’m excited to help them share their proposal with DC leaders.”
Both Stabile and Volz are involved in McCourt’s Policy Innovation Lab and noted that their work with the Lab enabled them to “gain a stronger understanding of what was really going on in DC, outside of Capitol Hill, and see where gaps exist, and hopefully help to find a way to fill them.”
Other top proposals sought to address vaccine distribution inequities, confront the maternal mortality crisis in DC, assist new parents in tracking their own mental health, and consolidate retirement plan vendors for DC Public Schools teachers.
About the Public Policy Challenge:
The Georgetown Public Policy Challenge, hosted by the McCourt School, is an interdisciplinary competition that calls on graduate students to develop innovative policy solutions that help address a challenge in the local community. Now in its seventh year, the Challenge is open to students attending graduate school in the District. Each team presents a proposal to a panel of judges and only five teams advance to the finals. Finalists receive $750 and the winning team is awarded $2,500 to support the implementation of the proposal.