CALL FOR A MORATORIUM ON NEW DC HOUSING VOUCHERS

We reluctantly call for an immediate moratorium on the awarding of new housing vouchers in the District of Columbia. We make this call after nine months of listening to the voters in Ward 3, to our neighbors in the buildings along Connecticut Avenue, as well as studying DC Housing Voucher programs and DC Fair Housing laws.

 

Community Meeting at The Saratoga

Tenants in The Saratoga, 4601 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 hosted a community meeting for tenants, neighbors, members of the media, and our campaign in the community room of the Saratoga Building, on Thursday, September 22. I moderated the meeting which was attended by about 3 dozen neighbors and press.

 

At the meeting the major problems with the Housing Voucher Programs (below) were discussed. We were joined by TENACDC so there was an excellent give and take across the political spectrum. Our meeting was an example that must be followed in the Wilson Building starting in January. The only way for that to occur is for a non-Democrat to be elected from a Ward for the first time. 

Major Problems Surround the Housing Voucher Programs

 

1)    The programs lack transparency. Statistics are next to impossible to obtain, even with FOIA requests. Are statistics being kept in the first place or are they not provided to the tenant associations because knowing the results would jeopardize the programs? After all, the programs are largely federally funded, and create an incentive for local government to deploy the funds as quickly as possible without proper planning.

 

2)    Apartment market rents have been grossly inflated - up to 187%. Landlords use these rents as an excuse to force existing tenants, most on fixed incomes, to match these rates or move.

 

3)    Rent stabilized units are being eliminated by design. So much for aging in place.

 

4)    Crime is up in most categories within the 2nd District compared to three years ago, according to the MPD.

·      Assault With a Deadly Weapon up 15%

·      Sexual Assault up 24%

·      Motor Vehicle Theft up 12%

·      Violent Crime up 8%

 

5)    An even greater increase in crime exists in PSA 203 (along Connecticut Ave from Macomb St. to Nebraska Ave) since the value of the various housing vouchers was elevated (late 2017). Our PSA shows the highest increase of crime in the District of Columbia over the last four years.

 

6)    Rules and Regulations within apartment buildings are next to impossible to enforce. Historically, DC landlord/tenant court regulations are incredibly difficult to navigate and now the system is only operating at 40% capacity due to COVID-19 related restrictions that are no longer necessary.

 

7)    Voucher recipient mental health screening and management are grossly inadequate.

 

8)    DC is one of three jurisdictions in the country that guarantees a right to shelter. Are all the voucher recipients even DC residents?

 

9)    Housing vouchers can be received in perpetuity.

 

10) Drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence issues are inadequately addressed in the programs. We had a resident jump out of a 8th-story window on Albemarle St. to avoid her violent ex-boyfriend. Thank goodness she survived but incidents like this are unacceptable in any ward.

 

11) The Housing Voucher Programs have unfairly offloaded societal problems onto the existing tenants in apartment buildings.

We Demand New Council Hearings Connected to a Moratorium on New Housing Vouchers

Council hearings on the programs must commence just after the installation of the new Council in January. The hearings must publicly analyze the programs by enlisting independent subject-matter experts to review the programs’ objectives, effectiveness, unintended consequences, and rental rates. Further, we must look at participant screening, wrap around services, and the present condition of landlord/tenant court. Our hope is that the hearings would lead to the implementation of immediate reforms, which would end the proposed moratorium.