credit: Reginald Black

Local artists, including a DJ, held a Jan. 18 showcase at Woolly Mammoth Theater to draw people in to discuss housing issues plaguing our city. The event, organized by the advocacy group ONE D.C., centered on the concept of a universal right to housing, regardless of income.

Aja Taylor of Bread for the City described the pressure and inequality felt by many neighborhoods. “These are policies, these are actions and inaction. This is how we get to situations like the mayor giving a press conference and another shooting is happening three blocks away,” Taylor said. “We are seeing the effect of this housing crisis.”

An attendee from Congress Heights described her experience working with neighbors to have a say in how the land is used: “They want to take away from our families. They separate us so they can build one- and two-bedrooms or an efficiency. It doesn’t matter what color you are.”

Will Merrifield of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless said that the amount of money involved in development projects creates this fear of a lack of democracy. He stressed the importance of land control. “If developers are in charge of this dollar policy, they will try to buy up all the land,” Merrifield said. “We have to be in complete solidarity. … We have to figure out ways to control the land.”

Eugene Puryear of the advocacy group Justice First said that housing policy is a choice. “We need to go back to the [Civil Rights Movement] idea that housing is a social good,” Puryear said. “Everyone has a right to a home. [But] there won’t be enough housing if we depend on the market.”