Councilmembers Silverman and May Co-Introduce Legislation to Prevent Resident Displacement around St. Elizabeths Campus Redevelopment
At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman and Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May today introduced a bill that would safeguard D.C. residents who neighbor a major economic development project, specifically the St. Elizabeths project in Ward 8, by providing additional financial assistance and legal resources to prevent gentrification. Additional co-introducers included Councilmembers Anita Bonds (At-Large), David Grosso (At-Large), Vincent Orange (At-Large), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Charles Allen (Ward 6), and Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1). The bill was co-sponsored by Councilmember Brandon Todd (Ward 4).
The bill, titled the Displacement Prevention Amendment Act of 2016, would help current residents surrounding the St. Elizabeths campus in two ways: It doubles the maximum income tax credit available to District renters and homeowners through Schedule H in a targeted zone around the Ward 8 campus and provides additional resources, including legal assistance, to help residents purchase or remain in their homes.
“Public and private investment in Ward 8 is long overdue—and let me be clear I support that investment at St. E’s—but we need to have policies in place to make sure our public investment doesn’t push out the residents we’re trying to help,” said Silverman. “At the March 24 hearing on the Washington Wizards practice facility, we heard from many residents—both in favor of the project and those with concerns—that rising property values and rents would make the area unaffordable for them to remain in their homes. We want these residents to benefit from our investment and not get pushed out.”
The bill focuses on two displacement prevention strategies for residents in the area surrounding the St. Elizabeths campus, which is in Phase I of a multi-phase development. This phase includes the investment of $120 million in District tax dollars for housing and commercial development, including $50 million for a Wizards practice facility.
The first displacement prevention strategy ensures that additional financial support is targeted carefully to low-income renters and homeowners in four census tracts surrounding the St. Elizabeths campus. The legislation doubles their maximum Schedule H income tax credit and increases the portion of rent the credit represents, allowing residents to stay in their homes as prices rise. Schedule H is an effective tool for helping low-income residents across the city who are facing escalating housing costs and can curb displacement without further contributing to pressure on rents.
The second strategy provides for grants to law school clinics and other nonprofit service providers to enhance their capacity to provide tenants and homeowners with appropriate assistance to prevent displacement and enforce housing codes and other tenant protections. Currently, the District sees over 30,000 cases in landlord-tenant court each year, in which more than 90 percent of tenants appear without legal representation and are left vulnerable to illegal evictions. When New York City increased its investment in housing-related legal services, it saw evictions drop by 18 percent.
“I want to thank Councilmember May and her staff for working with my office on this legislation because I believe this is an important step toward addressing displacement concerns we heard from Ward 8 residents,” said Silverman. “We need to be proactive, instead of reactive, in addressing the economic pressures residents will face if the project indeed has the intended catalytic effect.”
The legislation was sequentially referred to the Committee on Housing and Community Development and the Committee on Finance and Revenue.