Legal Aid Testifies Strongly in Favor of Extension of Rental Housing Act
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Deborah Cuevas Hill, Senior Staff Attorney

On November 3, 2010, Debbie Cuevas Hill, staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, testified before the D.C. City Council in support of Bill 18-863 which would extend the Rental Housing Act of 1985 (“the Act”) for 10 years.  See Bill 18-863 - Rental Housing Commission Reform Amendment Act of 2010.  (The Act originally had a sunset provision of twenty years, meaning the Act was set to expire in 2005.  The Act was extended for another 5 years in 2005.)  The Act includes crucial rent control protections for tenants. 

In 1985, when the Act was passed, the Council made the following findings:

(1) There is a severe shortage of rental housing available to citizens of the District of Columbia ("District").

   (2) The shortage of housing is growing due to the withdrawal of housing units from the housing market, deterioration of existing housing units, and the lack of development of new or rehabilitation of vacant housing units.

   (3) The shortage of housing is felt most acutely among low- and moderate-income renters, who are finding a shrinking pool of available dwellings.

   (4) The cost of basic accommodation is so high as to cause undue hardship for many citizens of the District of Columbia.

In our testimony, Legal Aid bemoaned the fact that the stark findings that were true in 1985 are even more true today.  A recent DC Fiscal Policy Institute study found that nearly all low-income DC households have unaffordable housing costs.  (See  D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, Nowhere to Go (Feb. 5, 2010) at 4 .  Therefore, Legal Aid not only supported an extension of 10 years, but also urged the Council to provide a more permanent extension to the Act until the need for such legislation no longer exists.

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