For all the same reasons we articulated two weeks ago, Legal Aid urges every DC Councilmember to vote no on the District of Columbia Housing Authority Stabilization and Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2022. Today, we joined other legal services and tenant advocate partners to send the below letter letting the DC Council know that public housing residents deserve so much more than this rushed emergency legislation that removes elected tenant voices from the Board as well as commissioners who have consistently made public the many problems with DCHA.
If you haven’t already, please add your voice to the cause by emailing to Council through Empower DC’s email action.
December 19, 2022
The Hon. Phil Mendelson
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
RE: District of Columbia Housing Authority Stabilization and Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2022
Dear Chairman Mendelson and Fellow Members of the Council of the District of Columbia:
The undersigned organizations write to express deep concern and opposition to the emergency legislation regarding the DC Housing Authority. We urge you to oppose the District of Columbia Housing Authority Stabilization and Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2022, and its many proposed amendments, that would dissolve the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) Board of Commissioners (Board) and replace it with a “Stabilization and Reform” board, diminish the role of residents served by DCHA, and remove all non-mayoral appointees–the only members that have consistently raised many of the issues cited within the HUD Report. Further, the emergency bill fails to address the fundamental problems identified in the HUD report.
As organizations that represent the interests of low-income tenants who reside in DCHA properties or receive DCHA Housing Choice Vouchers, we are interested in reforming the DCHA, but we firmly oppose the pending emergency legislation that would remove critical voices from the Board, including those of resident leaders, and further expand Mayoral control of the Board. The legislation would radically alter the structure and make-up of the Board without public input or well-informed debate. The bill removes the DCHA board member seats selected by labor and housing advocates and reduces representation of elected DCHA residents, without adequate justification. By eliminating these voices and converting any resident representation to mayoral selections, this bill would prevent the Board from performing a key function: rigorous oversight and independent monitoring. Additionally, there is no explanation as to why the “Stabilization and Reform” Board would be more effective than the current Board. During a time when DC residents need more confidence in the leadership at DCHA, this bill would breed further distrust in the agency.
The fact that DCHA is in need of substantial reform does not justify the radical changes proposed through the pending bill, particularly without an adequate opportunity to comment. Further, any effort to rehabilitate DCHA must substantially address the HUD Report’s programmatic concerns, and this bill fails to do that. Notably, HUD found that the current Executive Director “has no experience in property development, property management or managing federal housing programs,” yet this bill does not address current leadership or other staffing concerns. True reform aimed at resolving the fundamental problems at DCHA must also address leadership, internal agency deficiencies, and the grave failings to meet the many needs of DCHA constituents in the provision of safe and affordable housing.
For these reasons, we vehemently oppose the District of Columbia Housing Authority Stabilization and Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2022. DCHA requires thoughtful reform, and we hope the DC Council will join us in opposition to this haphazard and ill-informed legislation. While we certainly agree that there are significant issues that need to be addressed within DCHA and DCHA Board structure, rushed emergency legislation and hurried amendments are not the path to meaningful reform for such a critical agency. We are encouraged by the recent introduction of permanent legislation to reform DCHA, and hope DC Council considers it a tangible step forward. Residents and the public deserve thorough legislation and the opportunity for input. Anything less will be devastating to the lives of DC’s most vulnerable residents and the preservation of public housing.
Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
Legal Aid of the District of Columbia
Bread for the City
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Legal Counsel for the Elderly
Children’s Law Center
Rising for Justice
The Hon. Kenyan R. McDuffie
The Hon. Anita Bonds
The Hon. Elissa Silverman
The Hon. Robert C. White, Jr.
The Hon. Christina Henderson
The Hon. Brianne K. Nadeau
The Hon. Brooke Pinto
The Hon. Mary M. Cheh
The Hon. Janeese Lewis George
The Hon. Charles Allen
The Hon. Vincent C. Gray
The Hon. Trayon White, Sr.