Photo of group holding banner encouraging the District Council to fund housing first initiatives
Reginald Black

Advocates and residents gathered in the rain on April 12 to protest the freezing of the city’s affordable housing waiting list.

Members of the groups including Shelter, Housing and Respectful Change, or SHARC; Miriam’s Kitchen and Fair Budget Coalition as well as individual advocates gathered outside the District of Columbia Housing Authority on North Capitol Street to demand that the city increase the number of subsidized units. Some said they had been on the waiting list for years. Others carried signs reading “Give Us Our Vouchers Now!”

With more than 66,000 families and individuals on the city’s waiting list for affordable housing, housing officials announced late last year than they planned to call for a temporary halt on new applications. At the time, families applying for a four-bedroom apartment could expect to wait for 10 years for a suitable unit. The wait for a studio apartment was estimated to be 43 years.

The officials explained that by freezing the list they hoped to purge it of applicants who are no longer looking for housing and to give those who have been on the list for years a realistic sense of how much longer they may need to wait.

“We need to determine the true size of the list,”  DCHA spokeswoman Dena Michaelson said at the time. “It’s a matter of managing expectations.”

The housing authority has the ability to subsidize and place people in about 22,000 housing units through the use of rental assistance vouchers, subsidized apartments and public housing.

But protesters said more units are needed. And passersby offered support.

Cars honked and people waved as the protesters carried their signs, some bearing the phone numbers of city council members and urging members of the public to make their voices heard.