DC Housing Authority: Preserve Public Housing and Residents’ Rights!

DC Housing Authority

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This past August, DC Housing Authority released their 20-year Transformation Plan (“the Plan”), as a response to the agency’s findings that “the vast majority of public housing units are in critical need of repair, 2500 of which are “nearly uninhabitable.”[i]

We are concerned about the financial and practical feasibility of DCHA’s plan to relocate 2,600 families through the voucher program while simultaneously redeveloping entire communities through largely unregulated private partnerships without a dedicated public funding source.  The Plan is virtually silent on the rights of residents (to return and once they are in newly developed properties), the impacts of displacement, the very real challenges of renting with a voucher, or the years of harm endured by residents living in slum conditions.  Additionally, the Plan seems to depend on access to highly competitive financing sources, results in a net loss of subsidized housing for large families and does not guarantee the redeveloped housing will be deeply affordable in perpetuity.

Public housing is the only permanent safety net to prevent homelessness. Repositioning, the removal of units from the public housing stock, does irreparable damage to the city’s landscape and further exacerbates the housing crisis. Public housing residents are guaranteed to only pay 30% of their income, regardless of how much they earn. In contrast, a 2019 study found the average rent for a 2-bedroom in DC to be $3,100/month, and renters need to have over $132,000 in annual earnings in order to pay 28% of their income or less.[ii]

Ensuring that DC is able to continue to provide low barrier housing to people living with low income is a matter of racial justice, disability justice and making sure that our seniors can truly age in place. True justice also requires that in addition to being affordable, this housing be safe, healthy and dignified.

DCHA holds the power and the responsibility to decide what will happen to thousands of Black, low-income families in a rapidly gentrifying city. Sign the petition to demand DCHA pass a binding resolution and regulations that incorporate the following prior to moving forward on any plan for redeveloping public housing:

·         Protect the health and safety of the current and future tenants.

·         Ensure resident engagement and resident-centered decision making.

·         Maintain and ensure enforceable rights for public housing residents.

·        Ensure resident right to return to redeveloped properties

·         Ensure no loss of deeply affordable units when buildings are redeveloped.

·         Ensure replacement units are deeply affordable and subsidized in perpetuity.

·        Provide reparations to public housing residents harmed by DCHA, and mitigation of future harm

·        Minimize displacement

Read our recommendations in full here, co-developed by Empower DC, Bread for the City, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, Neighborhood Legal Services Program, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

Individual and organizational support are both welcome! If you are a public housing resident, please add your property in the comments.  If your organization would like to sign onto the petition, please add your organization's name in the comments. For more information, email kenny@empowerdc.org.  

References:

[i] “With 84% of DC’s public housing stock in serious disrepair, we are at a crossroads.” The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. January 25, 2019. https://www.legalclinic.org/with-84-of-dcs-public-housing-stock-in-serious-disrepair-we-are-at-a-crossroads/

[ii]“Report: $132K in income is needed to comfortably rent a two-bedroom in D.C.” Curbed DC, July 30, 2019. https://dc.curbed.com/2019/7/30/20747273/dc-apartment-prices-two-bedrooms-renting-income

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Washington, DC

To: DC Housing Authority
From: [Your Name]

Ensuring that DC is able to continue to provide low barrier housing to people living with low income is a matter of racial justice, disability justice and making sure that our seniors can truly age in place. True justice also requires that in addition to being affordable, this housing be safe, healthy and dignified.

As such, we are concerned about the financial and practical feasibility of your plan to relocate 2,600 families through the voucher program while simultaneously redeveloping entire communities through largely unregulated private partnerships without a dedicated public funding source.

We demand that you pass a binding resolution and regulations that incorporate the following prior to moving forward on any plan for redeveloping public housing:

· Protect the health and safety of the current and future tenants.

· Ensure resident engagement and resident-centered decision making.

· Maintain and ensure enforceable rights for public housing residents.

· Ensure resident right to return to redeveloped properties

· Ensure no loss of deeply affordable units when buildings are redeveloped.

· Ensure replacement units are deeply affordable and subsidized in perpetuity.

· Provide reparations to public housing residents harmed by DCHA, and mitigation of future harm

· Minimize displacement