Oct 19, 2022 - News

D.C. Council takes first step to reforming housing authority

At-large Council member Elissa Silverman introduced the emergency legislation to reform DCHA. Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The D.C. Council has unanimously passed emergency legislation to reform the city's troubled Housing Authority.

State of play: The emergency legislation would clarify that the agency must follow consumer protection laws and that it must report to the council and Bowser administration how it uses local funds.

  • The legislation also creates new training requirements for agency staff.

Catch up quick: A damning HUD report out earlier this month revealed poor oversight and management as well as violations of federal requirements to provide safe, sanitary housing.

Federal auditors found 82 issues that must be improved within the next three months. They include tracking numerous vacancies — one in four public housing units in D.C. are vacant — and addressing crime on agency properties, per the Washington Post.

  • The report also included details about an unrepaired leak that caused black and green mold to grow inside a unit.

In recent years, the Housing Authority has been sued twice by the attorney general’s office for failing to address fire and drug activities on their properties and for making residents with disabilities wait years for housing.

What they’re saying: In a Tuesday email to council members, DCHA Executive Director Brenda Donaldson asked the council to hold off on the legislation, noting that the agency still has two months to reply to the federal report and said the emergency bill “assumes that all findings from the HUD report are accurate and final.”

  • In particular, Donaldson called the legislation's Dec. 1 deadline for the agency to submit a funding report and new training requirements "unreasonable."
  • In a statement to Axios, DCHA reiterated its disappointment that the emergency legislation was not shared with the agency before the vote and it welcomes "collaborative conversation" with the council on next steps.

What we're watching: At-large Council member Elissa Silverman has promised to propose further reforms, including more oversight of monthly spending by the agency and reforms to who may sit on DCHA’s board.

  • Housing committee chair Anita Bonds has also promised legislation to reform the agency and has called for regular hearings on the agency’s progress.

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