DC Renters Organize for Affordable Housing at 5th Annual Tenant Town Hall

DC Renters Organize for Affordable Housing at 5th Annual Tenant Town HallIn February, DC residents who participated in Mayor Vincent Gray's One City Summit said affordable housing was their #1 issue of concern. At June's 5th Annual Citywide Tenant Town Hall - organized by LEDC - more than 250 renters shared their own follow-up action plan with DC council members and housing agency directors.

We delivered a unified message to the Mayor and the DC Council that housing is a priority in the District of Columbia, said Nathan Moon, board member of the 1111 Massachusetts Ave NW Tenants Association. It is clear that DC needs more affordable housing of all kinds, and that these programs need to be expanded, not just held at current levels.

Surrounded by community resource booths, I am an Affordable Housing Voter posters and postcards, and visual timelines showing tenant organizing victories, renters joined Ward 1 resident Luci Murphy in song to kick off the Town Hall, signing the refrain, We ‘aint gonna move. Over the next few hours, renters shared their vision for change, highlighting key funding sources, housing programs, and tenant and language access rights to support their efforts to fight the significant loss of low-cost rental units in the city.

Sharon Lewis, a Ward 4 DC resident, shared her story of struggle to access funding through the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund to help her tenant association purchase its apartment building now up for sale just one block away from the Georgia Avenue/Petworth metro station. Due to a lack of adequate monies in the Fund, the Association was unable to use this option to preserve the building as affordable.

As a retiree, on a fixed income, affordable housing is at the top of my priority list, Lewis says. Not my bucket list - my priority list.

Other tenant priorities included improving housing conditions through continued improvements to DC’s proactive housing inspections program; preventing tenant displacement in public housing undergoing redevelopment; and the creation of a new policy to ensure that publicly subsidized apartment buildings slated for foreclosure do not lose their subsidy.

According to a May 2012 study released by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, rents and home values in the District have risen sharply since 2000 and the number of low-cost rental units - defined by DCFPI has having monthly rent and utility costs of less than $750 a month - fell by more than 50 percent.

Renters across the city are organized and ready for the Gray Administration and Council members to stop the dramatic loss of affordable housing by making funding for key programs a continuing priority, said Farah Fosse, director of LEDC’s Affordable Housing Preservation Program.