Feb 7, 2022 - News

D.C. housing advocates want more rental assistance

Illustration of a crumpled-up eviction notice in a trash can.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

D.C. could soon see a surge of evictions, says the Office of the Tenant Advocate, as a group of housing advocates ask D.C. to use surplus funding to avoid evictions.

By the numbers: From Sept. 30 through Jan. 31st, D.C. had 558 scheduled evictions, 352 canceled evictions, and 206 executed evictions, D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate legislative director Joel Cohn tells Axios.

  • “There is good reason to believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. The numbers may be low due to landlord uncertainties regarding legal requirements and the proper forms and notices to use,” he says.

Driving the news: Late last month, 38 organizations, including the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, Bread for the City, and Miriam’s Kitchen, called on Mayor Muriel Bowser to use roughly $500 million in reserve and surplus funding to immediately halt future evictions.

  • In a letter, they warn that the eviction crisis could harm more than 40,000 households, including 300 families in a temporary housing program called rapid rehousing whose programs will end in March and April.
  • A separate letter-writing campaign by Just Recovery DC asking the mayor’s office to use surplus funding has garnered more than 1,500 signatures since last week.
  • The mayor’s office did not respond by press time to a request for comment.

What they’re saying: “A spike in evictions will deepen DC’s stark racial inequities and weaken our economy, holding us all back. Landlords are filing evictions, despite D.C. having growing resources to do more to help tenants catch up on rent,” the letter says.

  • The letter points to data from the U.S. Census Bureau Pulse Survey of late December to early January, where 43,000 D.C. households said they were behind on rent and 9,700 said they’d applied for rental assistance and hadn’t received it.
  • The letter asks the mayor’s office to use fiscal 2021 surplus and reserve funds for rental assistance — or to speed up the supplemental fiscal 2022 budget process.
  • It also asks D.C. to avoid evicting rapid rehousing recipients at the conclusion of their program if they are not enrolled in another housing program.

Flashback: In Nov. 2021, D.C. asked the federal government for $238.7 million in additional emergency rental assistance funds and last month received only $17.8 million.

  • The District also received $14.6 in Low Income Home Emergency Assistance Program funds.

The big picture: As part of D.C.’s phase-out of the eviction moratorium, landlords could begin filing evictions on Jan. 1. But the limited public health emergency extended through Feb. 15 has created a gray area.

The intent of the public health emergency doesn’t appear to pause filings, says Cohn. However, he says that the landlord and tenant court has paused executing evictions through the public health emergency.

Cohn says tenants struggling with rent can request rental assistance through D.C.’s emergency rental assistance program.


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