Community Envisions a Right to Housing
A group of advocates met in May to discuss what a campaign for a right to housing in D.C. would look like. Attendees went over several definitions and discussed what is needed for the community to produce housing that is realistically affordable for low-income individuals and families.
Some of the voices in the room said that one-third of the rental units in the city should be regulated as “universal” and geared to accept any person, regardless of income or background.
Group members called for avoiding neglectful landlords and property managers. They said quality maintenance of existing units would be less expensive than developing new units and would show dignity and respect to tenants.
They theorized about the application of low-income tax credits to support public housing and said the newly-approved fiscal year 2018 budget did not do enough to prioritize housing and support the level of development and repairs needed to house low-income residents. All agreed that the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act should be made applicable to public housing units.
One guest featured at the meeting was Commissioner Bill Slover of the D.C. Housing Authority. He shared his experience with different housing projects and attempted to address concerns from public housing residents regarding the Barry Farm Neighborhood, where redevelopment is planned.
“Everything is feasible,” Slover said in response to attendees’ ideas. “But one voice can’t move the machine.”
He also said that the public housing project conversions into mixed-income developments looks good on paper, but is often different on site. His biggest concern right now is the loss of public housing.
Slover suggested that advocates could lobby for redeveloped locations to be managed by the Housing Authority, as a way to hold DCHA accountable for ensuring current residents’ continued access to housing. “People think the only way to redevelop somewhere like Green Leaf is to make it private,” Slover said.
He added that mixed income developments are designed to funnel profits from market rate deals back into public housing funds.
There is great concern around the treatment and fate of public housing residents in the District. Even lawyers like Patricia Mullahy Fugere, executive director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, are offering their assistance. “Allow me to build a paper trail” she said the meeting attendees. “If there are things that are a concern let’s put them on paper and get the board to enact them.” ■