Legal Aid urges DC Councilmembers to vote no on the District of Columbia Housing Authority Stabilization and Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2022. Legal Aid strongly opposes this bill.
Something as critical as reforming an agency should not be done through emergency legislation, with no time for public input or well-informed debate. While we agree the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) must be reformed, this is not the way to do it. The Council should hold hearings and get the input of stakeholders and experts before deciding what DCHA should look like moving forward.
Additionally, this bill would move DCHA, and its governing Board, in the wrong direction. Legal Aid has been calling on the Council to reconstitute the Board of Commissioners, but we have been asking for the Council to break up the Mayor's majority on the Board, the exact opposite of what this bill does. The Mayor's majority on the Board of Commissioners is what got DCHA to where it is today – a failing agency that has lost its sense of purpose and mission. If you watch board meetings from recent years, it is the non-mayoral appointees, specifically the labor appointee and the housing advocacy representative, who asked tough questions of the agency and its executive team, held them accountable, and highlighted improper actions. It is inconceivable that the Council would pass a bill that removes those individuals from the Board. The proposed bill also removes all elected tenant representatives from the Board. DCHA and the Council should be working hard right now to rebuild trust between residents and the agency, not eroding that relationship further by silencing tenant voices through the use of emergency legislation.
We hope we can count on Councilmembers to vote no on this rushed, undemocratic, and ill-informed bill. Instead, we hope that in the new year the Council will thoughtfully consider potential reforms to DCHA's Board after holding public hearings.