Silverman Remarks on Presenting DCHA Emergency Legislation
Councilmember Elissa Silverman's remarks on presenting the Housing Authority Accountability Emergency Amendment Act of 2022, October 18, 2022
Mr. Chairman, I think what is happening at the D.C. Housing Authority is the very definition of an emergency.
The Authority’s job is to provide safe, sanitary, and dignified housing for our low-income families. And it is to make decisions about housing authority properties that will provide deeply affordable housing to those at very low income.
For years, residents have been testifying before the authority and at times before this Council saying that the authority isn’t doing its job. Increasingly, it seems the authority is more focused on market-rate economic development opportunities than deeply affordable housing.
The scathing HUD report put all of this in plain sight. We need to address this with urgency, and we need to start at the top and make sure that the people who manage and make decisions for the authority know what they're doing.
That’s why I am glad so many of my colleagues–12 of us– and the Attorney General have joined in introducing this emergency legislation.
We need permanent legislation to truly fix these issues – and I will be introducing that bill soon. For now, however, I am asking my colleagues to tackle three urgent reforms:
- Training requirements for the Board and executive director
- Local transparency
- Consumer protection clarification
It’s clear from the HUD report that the executive director and Board need more training about housing authorities, their programs, and basic requirements. While that report gives the Housing Authority six months to address the training gaps, the bill before us today sets earlier deadlines for completing training – and a penalty for Board members who fail to do so.
The HUD report also highlighted major errors in procurement, rent calculations, and even which units are vacant or occupied. Since District funds are keeping the Housing Authority solvent, we need to know what we are getting with our money. When the Council votes to give $50M to the housing authority to address its capital needs, I want to hear that they used it to stop the rat infestations and mold problems people call me about.The data we are asking for will help us make sure the District funds that are going to the housing authority are not bailing them out of federal trouble, but are instead helping our residents get a decent standard of living.
And finally, the Attorney General brought it to my attention that the housing authority has claimed it is not subject to consumer protection laws. Since 2019, our consumer protection has been clear that landlord-tenant issues are subject to the law. I don’t see why DCHA would think it is exempt, but this bill spells that right out. I think of it as a belt-and-suspenders; there’s a strong case to say that DCHA was already covered.
I ask my colleagues to continue to support this emergency declaration and the underlying bill.