• Goodwin for DC Council At Large

Here’s what the 2020 at-large DC Council candidates have to say about housing (GGW)

As part of Greater Greater Washington’s endorsement process for the non-Democratic at-large seat, our elections committee emailed our questionnaire, addressing housing, transportation, and land use issues, to candidates running in the November 3 general election, for Councilmember David Grosso’s soon-to-be-former at-large seat.

Our questionnaire had a lot of prompts —11— and there are a lot of candidates in this race. Eleven of them — Markus Batchelor, Marcus Goodwin, Christina Henderson, Chander Jayaraman, Ed Lazere, Jeanné Lewis, Will Merrifield, Rick Murphree, Vincent Orange, Alex Padro, and Mónica Palacio — responded to our requests.

For readability, we are breaking the responses up into several posts. Today’s is the first through third questions. The candidates’ responses are below.

1. Do you support building more housing in DC? In particular, do you support the Mayor’s goals to add 36,000 units of housing by 2025? Would you support a more ambitious target than 36,000 new units of housing?

Markus Batchelor: Yes, I support housing production efforts in DC, including the mayor’s goal to add 36,000 units of housing by 2025. However, as Councilmember, I’ll be hyper-focused on the creation of more ambitious targets for the production of deeply affordable, family-inclusive and community-serving housing at or under 60% of the AMI. I would also work with my colleagues to create zoning laws that better support an increase in housing production. I fundamentally believe it is our government’s role, especially through the Housing Production Trust Fund, to deeply invest in the areas where the private sector and development community won’t so that residents across the income spectrum have access to truly affordable housing.

Marcus Goodwin: Yes, I support the mayor’s goal to add 36,000 housing units by 2025. To do that we will have to double down on our investment to the Housing Production Trust Fund. I also want to ensure that more residents can buy a home. Affordable home ownership is a key and critical component of my platform. One of my first proposals on the Council would be to increase funding for the Home Purchase Assistance Program, to make sure that more people can afford a home and start building towards a better future. I have developed affordable housing units for 9 years and will continue to lead on this issue.

Christina Henderson: I do support the Mayor’s goal to add 36,000 units of housing by 2025. It is estimated that the Washington region will need to produce 235,000 housing units to keep up with growth, and this goal is appropriate for DC to deliver on its share. The availability and affordability of housing has long been a priority issue for many DC residents, and it is one issue I plan to focus on as an At- Large Councilmember. While the Mayor’s office says that at least a third of these units will be affordable, I’d want to examine more what that means. Much of our current affordable housing stock is either not deeply affordable (under 30% of AMI) or not suitable for families, especially multi-generational families. This must change and should be explicitly part of our housing production goals. At this time, I believe it would be wise for DC to get a better handle on the medium and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic before moving to a more ambitious target for new housing. The reality is a number of businesses will be reevaluating their business model, allowing more people to work remotely as opposed to in a defined office space. This could impact population growth in the region going forward and will certainly impact revenues.

Chander Jayaraman: Yes, I support the Mayor’s goals of adding housing and would support a higher target over the next 5 years. We must think creatively and look for alternate options to exceed the current targets. The District should look for opportunities to support the conversion of existing commercial buildings into affordable workforce housing which could make the District more affordable for young professionals, couples, and families. To meet and exceed the Mayor’s goal, the city should hold itself accountable by setting annual housing increase targets.

I would support models of housing development that emphasizes the production of mixed-income housing that includes a higher percentage of ADUs in relation to market rate units. As Chair of ANC 6B, I have supported proposals that support greater density while balancing the need for the historic preservation of buildings and neighborhoods. We also need to do everything in our power to help people stay in their homes by limiting property tax increases on seniors and multi-generational family properties.

Ed Lazere: Yes and yes. Adding to our housing stock, providing more funding for affordable housing, and preserving existing lower-cost housing are critical steps to being a welcoming city for a growing population, without leading to displacement. With DC ranked among the worst in displacement of Black residents, this is an urgent matter of racial justice.

More housing supply will reduce upward pressure on prices, in a city where rents and home sales prices have risen astronomically. It will create housing opportunities for people at a range of incomes and lessen the likelihood of low-cost housing disappearing because it is redeveloped into higher-cost housing.

Building more housing is not enough to stop displacement or address our affordable housing needs.The mayor’s goal of 12,000 affordable housing units (across a variety of low- and moderate-income levels) is inadequate. We know from a large body of research, including the work I did at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, that the need for very low-cost housing (30% AMI and below) is at least 30,000 units. As a Council member, I would work for much more ambitious affordable housing goals, including fully addressing the needs of DC’s lowest-income residents over the next decade.

I also support strengthening rent control to stabilize rents for all renters, to maintain family and community stability. I supported the Reclaim Rent Control Campaign through my work at DCFPI and would work to adopt it as a Council member. The current rent control law exempts anything built after 1975, which means that rent control’s reach shrinks every year. I support extending rent control to all buildings of 4 or more units that are at least 15 years old. I also support capping rent increases at inflation, no rent increases when units become vacant, closing the voluntary agreement that landlords have been shamefully abusing for over a decade, and more.

Jeanné Lewis: Yes, I do support Mayor Bowser’s goal of adding 36,000 units of housing by 2025 and would go further than the 36,000. Development of new housing units must be done in an equitable way so DC residents are not pushed out or displaced. Yet more of these units

need to be sustainable – meaning truly affordable, sizable enough for families, and affordable long term. The goal here needs to be producing new housing and preserving the affordable housing that we have left, particularly those accessible to those making under 30% of MFI. Expanding the use of community land trusts can ensure affordable housing in the long term. The city also needs to better incentivize and support cooperative housing models and development. Expediting the repair of our public housing stock, especially preserving larger units, will help us deal with this crisis.

Will Merrifield: I support building more housing in DC and believe that at least 36,000 more units are needed. However, I do not support Mayor Bowser’s plan because, while building more units, it will only produce a small number of units that are truly affordable. As such, the Mayor’s plan is nothing more than a giveaway of public money to private developers to build luxury housing and will do nothing to solve the affordable housing crisis.

Developers have complete control of housing policy in Washington, DC, and when a development corporation has shareholders and a duty to maximize corporate profit, there is an inherent conflict between the goal of creating truly affordable housing and the profit motive driving that corporation. This is why working-class families are being displaced, rents are skyrocketing, and hundreds of millions of public dollars are being funneled to developers to build assets that working-class residents cannot access. The Mayor’s current plan is an extension of these broken politics.

I am the only candidate offering a plan commensurate with the magnitude of the

current affordable housing crisis. Our campaign is centered on a local Green New Deal to build thousands of units of social housing. Social housing is permanently affordable, publicly-owned mixed income housing. It is a proven and straightforward housing model that has been successful in providing permanent affordable housing and creating stable communities in other parts of the world. Residents of social housing would pay 25% of their income toward rent, so a minimum wage worker in DC would pay around $645 a month. A managed mixture of income levels covers the cost of building maintenance and generates additional revenue used to repay construction loans.

By removing the profit motive, the social housing model allows the public to regain control over land and resources. Rather than DC politicians giving hundreds of millions of public dollars to private developers so that they can profit by charging us high rents, we can invest our tax dollars directly into a model that guarantees housing as a human right. To make this a reality, it will require a grassroots movement from working-class DC residents to demand that their needs be prioritized over politically connected special interest. As a seasoned tenant attorney with years of experience fighting alongside tenants and community organizers for safe and affordable housing - I know the energy and the ideas are there. These fights against displacement are happening building by building, but the problem is systemic and the solution must be District-wide. That is what my campaign is about.

Rick Murphree: We definitely need to continue to build more affordable housing within DC. We are not on track to meet or exceed the mayor’s goal by 2025. However, we need to make sure this housing is affordable to those in the city that are serving the city such as teachers, fire fighters, police officers, health care workers, early childhood development professionals, etc.

Vincent Orange: Yes, I support building more housing in DC. Yes, I support the Mayor’s goals to add 36,000 units of housing by 2025. Yes, I would support a more ambitious target than 36,000 new housing units.

Alex Padro: Creating new housing at all income levels, but especially affordable and workforce housing, is critical to the evolution of DC into a more diverse, equitable city. Depending on economic conditions, current goals may be achievable or could be increased. If the city’s finances allow it, the goal should be increased, either through standalone city-funded projects or public-private partnerships.

Mónica Palacio: I propose that the District take the position that housing is a human right. There is an ongoing crisis in affordable housing development in the district and the region. This crisis threatens the safety net for many people in poverty or who are at risk of being pushed into poverty because of the current economic crisis. Housing must include human rights standards. Standards that adopt and incorporate human rights standards would require that housing be affordable, accessible and habitable. Affordability means that housing costs should not force people to choose between paying rent or paying for food, Accessibility means that housing is both accessible for individuals with disabilities as much as to historically marginalized groups. Habitability means that housing includes adequate space and safety. Based upon these standards I would lead the District in a more ambitious plan to preserve affordable housing and build more affordable housing. While 12,000 units are projected to be delivered by the city, we will still face a shortage of 50,00-75,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years. I would support a plan that adds at least an additional 15,000 affordable units over the next 10 years.

2. The DC housing market’s growth has been uneven and particularly concentrated in certain neighborhoods. Do you support the mayor’s goal to set production targets in each area of the city to evenly disperse new housing?

Markus Batchelor: Yes, I support the Mayor’s goal to set production targets in each area of the city to equitably disperse new housing. I have spoken with residents across our city who have expressed support for the need to grow our housing stock and achieve true affordability in every neighborhood. Realizing that high acquisition costs are a barrier in our more affluent communities, I will also advocate that we use District-owned property as creatively as possible in order to create cost-effective housing production opportunities in every community.

Marcus Goodwin: Yes, most affordable housing units are funded and located in wards seven and eight. Clustering most of DC’s affordable housing in 2 wards concentrates poverty in these areas and further segregates our housing system. We need a more equitable system that provides opportunities for DC residents to access affordable housing in every ward of the District, particularly those with access to transit. We need every corner of the city to provide equitable housing opportunities for our working and middle class residents.

Christina Henderson: I am running for the DC Council because I believe we need a more equitable DC, and that is certainly the case when it comes to new affordable housing. For far too long the Council and the Mayor’s Office (across multiple Administrations) has allowed NIMBYism and developers preference to drive the housing production conversation in DC. The decision to allow developers who received taxpayer funded incentives to deliver their below-market unit commitments “off- site,” without specific instructions on location, has only exacerbated the issue of our affordable housing stock being concentrated in one area of the city. This has resulted in modern day redlining and reinforced the income inequality between neighborhoods. Setting production targets for each area of the city is a move towards equity, and I support that. Especially since we know that housing is significant factor for other policy issues like public education, retail development, and public transportation. As an At-Large Councilmember, I would be dogged in my oversight capacity to ensure that DC is continuously making progress towards meeting these production targets and that this new production does not simply result in more studio and 1-bedroom units, which would make it near impossible for families to move into.

Chander Jayaraman: Yes, in general I support this concept - the resources of the city should be targeted to areas where private sector investments are insufficient to produce the number of needed ADUs. Inclusionary Zoning is one tool for adding housing in single family residential neighborhoods but it must be vetted by the communities in which they are proposed. The District should be creating favorable economic conditions for smaller property owners and landlords to rent units, thus expanding the availability of rental units across the city.

However, we must pursue a new way of thinking that invests in pathways for local residents that lead from renting a unit to becoming an owner. This could include offering vouchers to low income residents that allows parents and families more flexibility in deciding where they want to live with ongoing assistance that leads to ownership.

Ed Lazere: Yes. The District’s Housing Equity Report shows where our city lacks adequate affordable housing and is a helpful start to more equitably distributing affordable housing opportunities across city neighborhoods.

The coronavirus health crisis has brought into even more stark focus DC’s gross racial, economic, and geographic inequities. Ward 8 has had the most deaths from the virus. Wards 2 and 3 have had the fewest. We need to build a city where all neighborhoods are safe and have access to grocery stores, quality health care, jobs and equitably resourced schools. One of the ways we do that is by ensuring that there’s equitable access to different kinds of housing choices in all neighborhoods — including the most affluent communities.

Increasing the housing supply throughout the city, including affordable housing, is a matter of racial equity. It’s needed to address a history of racial exclusion built into our zoning that contributed to the segregated housing patterns we see today. It is needed to address the current inequitable distribution of affordable housing (only 1% in Ward 3, for example). And it is needed to increase opportunities for low-income families; we know that affordable housing placed in lower-poverty communities results in better educational and job outcomes for low-income children of color.

We cannot continue to allow communities to block development, particularly the wealthiest. The best approach is to set reasonable targets across the city and then support appropriate projects to meet those targets. The affordable housing distribution goals by planning area, set by the mayor, are a helpful start. I support their implementation through the Comprehensive Plan, as a beginning.

Jeanné Lewis: Yes, I support the mayor’s goal of setting production targets in each area of the city to disperse new housing. DC is experiencing a housing crisis, and the Council must use a variety of strategies to address it. By setting area-specific goals, the District is able to analyze and respond to the unique needs of each area.

To promote increased density, one option is to alter our current zoning rules, allowing for more acreage to be used for housing infrastructure and transportation routes. I would also look into providing developers with incentives to improve housing affordability, by placing new housing on publicly owned properties. Increasing density in this way is not a one- size-fits-all approach that will work the same way across the city, or even across neighborhoods in the same ward. These opportunities will need to be identified and planned collaboratively with the impacted communities to make best use of what each location can offer.

We need to strengthen the inclusionary zoning requirements to ask more of developers and provide more affordable housing options. In particular, we can utilize project-based local rent supplements to assure that when affordable housing is built, it is actually affordable. By applying racial equity analysis, such as required by the REAR Act and applying it to contractors and contracts between the government and developers, it will be possible to identify and require contract terms that are favorable to the developers and the city government AND the people who make DC their home.

Oversight does not only come from the council. We have strong organizing and advocacy organizations in DC who empower residents to act on these issues, such as LEDC, Bread for the City and Empower DC. Our city government can provide grants to these kinds of organizations to expand their capacity to do more tenant advocacy and protection, community organizing and policy development.

Will Merrifield: I support an even dispersal of housing in different neighborhoods in the District. The problem with the Mayor’s plan is not the dispersal of new housing, but that it will give away hundreds of millions of dollars in public land and public money to politically connected developers to build luxury units that very few people will be able to afford. As such, the Mayor’s plan is designed to enrich developers, NOT to solve the housing crisis.

Rick Murphree: I believe that every neighborhood needs to be treated equally and with equal respect. Increasingly the city is becoming unaffordable for all but a few, particularly longtime residents. We need to spread out the housing equally across the city in every Ward. As the city grows, we need to continue to maintain the fabric of our neighborhoods and culture.

Vincent Orange: Yes, I support the mayor’s goal to set production targets in each area of the city to evenly disperse new housing.

Alex Padro: To the extent that undeveloped land is available, especially city-owned land, affordable housing, either standalone homes or multifamily buildings or affordable units incorporated into market rate buildings, should be built in every neighborhood. Units should also be built and reserved for special populations that experience special challenges in obtaining housing, including senior veterans, LGBTQIA seniors, and elder returning citizens.

Mónica Palacio: The Mayor’s plan will concentrate new housing in the central and northern parts of the city. The top four areas of growth: Rock Creek West, Rock Creek East, Central Washington, Capitol Hill. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities as well as communities of color in the District. I believe we need a plan that places racial equity first. We must reassess housing needs in Wards 7 and 8 and prioritize those needs before we continue to invest in housing production in more affluent parts of the city. Having lived and worked in the district for 30 years, I know that neighborhood identity is so important to residents. We should honor where residents want to live, not simply where we desire to build higher density housing.

3. Much of DC’s public housing is in disrepair. However, renovating or redeveloping DCHA properties has historically meant disrupting the lives of its residents and, in many cases, outright displacing them. What, if anything, would you change about DC, and DCHA’s, 20-year Transformation Plan?

Markus Batchelor: For far too long, the renovating and redevelopment of DCHA properties has not only disrupted the lives of its residents but shut out public housing residents from the opportunity they were promised and deserve.

Residents have faced significant challenges when attempting to remain or return to their home communities. I believe that DCHA must do more to create a clear path to return for residents caught in the middle of our delayed efforts to create affordable housing opportunities with dignity in our city. There is a lot of work that has to be done to restore trust in the 1:1 replacement that is promised to residents. To do this, the government must communicate clear timelines at the inception of the project, conduct robust engagement throughout the program, and empower residents to advocate for themselves and to be meaningful partners in the process. I also believe in the build first model, where the development project allows portions of the community to stay in place during the redevelopment. What we have found in the Barry Farm redevelopment and other redevelopment projects across the city, for example, is that residents face intimidation and other forced displacement tactics that continue to demonstrate a lack of commitment to the practice. To address this, it is important that legislators hold DCHA accountable throughout the project and that I remain vigilant as a member of the Council with the power of oversight.

It is critical for lawmakers to acknowledge that the federal government has drawn its line in the sand and is stepping away from its commitment to low income families in DC. Therefore, it is prudent for DC to seriously consider how we better support the housing needs of our poorest residents and establish local responsibility for a public housing program that departs from the failures of the past, while creating a bridge between housing insecurity or homelessness and permanent supportive housing opportunities.

Marcus Goodwin: The DC and DCHA plans need to prepare and time the unit repairs so that no displacement occurs. We cannot have a system where people are expected to move on short notice without a suitable replacement home. Furthermore, we cannot just ship people off to other temporary housing in the District or Maryland as a stopgap measure. There needs to be a clear unit replacement strategy before people can be expected to move. This issue is all about managing logistics and preparing housing options for individuals forced to move due to repairs.

I think that their goal to “operate as an efficient and effective landlord” needs more attention because the organization hasn’t been an efficient and effective landlord. In terms of property management I would be in favor of a public/private partnership to provide better service to our public housing community.

Christina Henderson: DCHA’s Transformation Plan heavily relies on demolition and disposition of public housing and property conversions via the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. Historically speaking, in DC and nationwide, we know that these methods have often resulted in public housing tenants being displaced. DCHA’s plan lacks sufficient details on how they plan to guard against that outcome. If I could change DCHA’s Transformation Plan, I would implement a “Build First” plan for any project that will require tenants to relocate. I recognize that DC has yet to successfully do this (see: long-promised redevelopment of Park Morton), but I believe it’s an important step to ensure that current residents do not get mired by ineffective relocation assistance by DCHA. Furthermore, I believe it’s a way to rebuild the trust between DCHA and residents. The ongoing relocation and displacement experiences of former residents of Barry Farm and Kenilworth Courts are fresh in a lot of minds. I would also include a commitment that RAD-converted properties will be replaced one-for-one, with the same subsidy levels and number of bedrooms. I believe the Council should pass the Public Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Amendment Act of 2020 which would require DCHA to submit its plans to the Council for review. If it is not approved this Council Period, I would certainly support it next year, if elected.

Chander Jayaraman: I support issuing vouchers to displaced residents, and believe this is an area in need of attention and innovation. At the same time, the District should be creating favorable economic conditions for landlords and property developers to provide clean, safe, appropriate housing for the District’s displaced families. As for rehabilitating public housing, we should be looking for innovative ways to do it, for example, by involving private partners to strengthen those neighborhoods, even while maintaining the supply of public housing. Public housing should adopt universal design standards to increase the quantity of accessible housing for people with disabilities and special needs. Likewise, no one should be forced to live under unsafe conditions and we must push DCHA to deliver on its promise of clean, decent, safe, and integrated into the community.

Ed Lazere: Public housing plays an incredibly important role in DC’s affordable housing landscape, as our lowest-barrier affordable housing program, serving primarily older residents, people with disabilities, and families with children. The current state of public housing facilities largely reflects federal disinvestment that is unlikely to change, which means that saving public housing in DC will have to come from local leaders. As we pursue that, it should be protected as public housing and not privatized.

Through my work at DCFPI, I was an active part of the coalition focused on local funding for public housing repairs and on ensuring that any redevelopment of public housing fully protects the rights of residents. Proposed plans by the DC Housing Authority have not guaranteed a strong right of return for residents and haven’t ensured that all units would be replaced 1:1 and at the same bedroom-number size as current units. As a Council Member, I would require that any infusion of local funds come with requirements that DCHA ensure all current tenants have the right of return, replace units one-for-one with an adequate number of multi-bedroom units, and engage in “build first” whenever possible.

Ensuring tenant protections in the long term means maintaining DCHA control of all properties without privatization. Private landlords are much more likely to engage in exclusionary practices (even if explicitly disallowed) such as rapid eviction and credit checks. Privatized public housing runs a great risk of not protecting current tenants the way current public housing does.

Jeanné Lewis: As much as we want to prevent displacement, we don’t want people to be stuck in unhealthy and unsafe environments that no one deserves to live in. In the plan, DCHA proposes ways to supplement the cost of repairing and maintaining public housing. I would shift the plan to keep as much of it publicly funded as possible. Using revenue from settlements and fines from those who violate the First Source Employment Program is one source.

I support the proposed Public Housing Preservation Act introduced by Nadeau which would require 45 days’ notice to the Council before submitting demolition plans for public houses and outlines the rights of potentially displaced tenants. DC is facing a serious crisis in public housing with the vast majority of public housing in extreme disrepair—leaving our families and neighbors in deplorable conditions. DCHA is planning massive renovation projects, which is absolutely necessary. Yet, their “Transformation Plan” needs to be undertaken with great care and concern for the residents of public housing—much greater care than we see currently paid to the rights of those living in our public housing. I think it is necessary for the Council to put in place additional provisions, such as providing significant notice and assuring that residents can stay in their communities during renovation and return to their homes after renovation. The Public Housing Preservation Act is an important step in assuring these rights.

Will Merrifield: DCHA’s transition plan is a trojan horse that is meant to demolish and privatize our current public housing stock. During my time as a housing attorney at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homelessness, I saw what a unique and vital role public housing plays in our housing ecosystem, and how a healthy public housing stock could keep many DC residents safe from homelessness. I have been on record for years against the privatization of this desperately needed asset. First, we should leverage federal dollars with local money to make the immediate repairs needed to allow residents to live in safe habitable conditions. Further, we should leverage available federal funds for green technology to retrofit our public housing units with the latest in green technology in order to reduce energy cost moving forward and make these buildings efficient and sustainable. However, at the end of the day, finding the money to sustain and repair our public housing stock is about political will. It is an indisputable fact that our government routinely gives away hundreds of millions of dollars in free money and land to developers while simultaneously forcing vulnerable DC families to live in deeply unsafe conditions by claiming there is not enough money for upkeep.

As a councilmember, I would work with tenant leaders, community members, and organizations that have been fighting for public housing preservation for years to build the political will needed to protect and expand public housing. If the District can give the developers of the Wharf over $300 million in public subsidies and build soccer, baseball and multiple basketball facilities, it can fund public housing repairs in the near term and put forward a plan of sustainability for the future.

Rick Murphree: Renovating and redevelopment is absolutely necessary to give residents what they deserve. However, there are other answers to this as well. Why not build community shared housing for low income families and workers? Why not offer ownership to those in low income housing as to feel some ownership not only to their houses, but to the neighborhoods in which they live in. We also need to make sure there is some sort of community benefits agreement package that is offered for those in low income housing. For example, is there transportation close by for residents to be able to use? Often times our housing priorities erect new barriers to work, housing and education further exacerbating our displacement.

Vincent Orange: Disrupting the lives of residents and outright displacing them is disturbing and problematic. I favor a thoughtful, reasonable and compassionate resolution to this issue. I’m open to suggestions and recommendations on how to address this issue. Perhaps the building of a new transitional housing facility should be up for discussion. Further examination and review of the 20-year Transformation plan is warranted in order to opine.

Alex Padro: Having seen only 18 families return to the new 281-unit mixed income Jefferson Marketplace complex that replaced the 54 units of low income housing at Kelsey Gardens Apartments across the alley from my home has convinced me that even with the best of intentions, most families will not return to a redeveloped site after having moved to “temporary” housing. These families could return to the new building using the vouchers that allowed them to move anywhere in the city or the nation while their garden apartment complex was redeveloped. But the reality is that after establishing themselves in new neighborhoods, enrolling children in new schools, and finding new, more convenient employment or commutes, most relocated residents do not want to disrupt these new arrangements to return to their old neighborhood. Whenever possible, housing complexes proposed for replacement should be redeveloped in phases, allowing residents that prefer not to be relocated to be moved to renovated or replacement units on site when their units are scheduled for demolition or renovation. Whenever possible, increasing density should be explored as an option for increasing the unit counts on public land.

Mónica Palacio: According to the DCHA’s 20 Year Transformation Plan, this work will take part in two phases. Phase one addressing “across 14 properties containing 2,610 public housing units most urgently in need of work to ensure the health and safety of residents, and the long term viability of those housing units”, and phase two promising to “place residents in improved living conditions than they currently live” which “will require some short and long-term relocation. While the Early Action Strategy will stabilize four of the 14 properties, the remaining ten properties have physical conditions and deteriorating infrastructure that is so severe, long-term relocation will be required as a first step while DCHA plans for comprehensive modernization and/or redevelopment of these sites.” However, due to the ongoing public health emergency, I do not feel confident that we can disrupt the lives of residents without guaranteeing that we can provide safe and better living conditions. I would need to see those plans before signing onto this model.

As the Director of the Office of Human Rights, it was part of our core mission to investigate claims of discrimination in housing. I found that families seeking to rent available apartments with District subsidies were turned away simply because of their income status and the stigma associated with low-income residents. Again, my position is that housing is a human right and should be affordable, accessible and habitable to residents.

Article by Alex Baca

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