The DCHA website on a laptop.
The DCHA website. Photo by Will Schick.

Public housing residents elected Kenneth Council and Denise Blackson to serve in the resident commissioner seats on D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA)’s Board of Commissioners on April 8. 

The Board of Commissioners oversees rule making for the public housing agency. It’s made up of 11 members, most of whom are appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser. Three seats are reserved for DCHA residents of all properties, family properties and elderly and disabled properties. 

Council has held the at-large seat for twelve years and was handily elected for another term, winning 133 votes to opponent Crystal Nelson’s 64, according to a preliminary vote count. Blackson is currently the ANC commissioner for 6E06 and ran unopposed for the family seat, earning 62 votes. She will replace current family commissioner Aquarius Vann-Ghasri. They will join the newly-elected elderly and disabled resident commissioner, Janet Parker. Elections for the three seats were repeatedly delayed by the pandemic. All three seats were slated to be elected in February, but only Parker registered to run. 

Council is a D.C. native and has lived in Fort Dupont Dwellings for five decades. He worked at the Pentagon as a database management assistant, and as a foriegn liaison officer for the US Army. In addition to the DCHA BOC, he has served on the DCHA Citywide advisory board, the Fort Dupont Resident Council and the Board of Trustees of the East of the River Family Strengthening Collaborative. 

Blackson is also a long-time D.C. resident, and graduated from University of D.C. She’s lived in her single member district for a quarter of a century, and is a community outreach specialist. She’s the president of her community, Sibley Townhomes, and as a mom of eight, prioritizes caring for her community, passing out food, cleaning products and backpacks for school-age children. 

Prior to the election, Council, Blackson, and Nelson attended a virtual candidate forum on April 1. A major theme of the night was how residents could have more power on the DCHA board, given that they are in the minority and often oppose the measures the mayor’s appointees support. One idea, supported by both candidates, is to split the senior/disabled seat in two, which would also allow those commissioners to handle the needs of senior and disabled populations separately, since they are not synonymous. Both candidates also pledged to push the board to share more information with resident leaders, including making sure they have the text of resolutions before they are voted on and being transparent about what impact money given to developers has. 

These elections mark the latest change in a board that’s seen rapid turnover in the last two years following the resignation of former chairman Neil Albert, dismissal of voucher holder commissioner Franselene St. Jean, and failure to renew the contract of former executive director Tyrone Garrett.