DC apartments have gotten a lot of press lately, with the news of HUD’s audit of the DC Housing Authority, and DC Attorney General Karl Racine’s record $10 million discrimination settlement with a landlord.
The HUD assessment released in early October lambasted DCHA’s management of its public housing and vouchers program from October 2019 to the present. Although most of the reporting (including The Washington Post’s) has focused on DCHA’s alleged failure to provide “decent, safe, and sanitary” public housing, the HUD assessment finds many faults with DCHA’s oversight of the Housing Choice voucher program (formerly known as Section 8), including poor record-keeping and lack of inspections. The HUD review team also questioned whether DCHA follows its own procedures for setting “rent reasonableness” standards for rent payments, and said they were “being exploited by HCV landlords.”
Ward 3 tenant advocates have been warning for some time that DCHA is paying rent subsidies in excess of market rates. And as recently as September, Harry Gural, the president of the Van Ness South Tenants Association noted:
HUD requires that DCHA check that the rents landlords charge to voucher recipients are "reasonable" — no more than rents they would charge to non-voucher recipients for a similar unit. However, it appears that DCHA frequently ignores that mandate. @allyschweitzer @DCist https://t.co/x4bREG76r2
— Harry Gural (@HarryGural) September 14, 2022
Beyond the federal monies it administers, DCHA is responsible for $50 million in local funding that the DC Council has allocated. On October 19th, the Council unanimously passed emergency legislation that includes the following requirements of DCHA:
- Provide reports on properties, finances and operations including assessment process of rent reasonableness
- Report the total amount of overcharging and undercharging of rent and housing assistance payments
- Clarify consumer protection rights.
DCHA has until the end of November to respond to the HUD report, and until December 1st to respond to the Council’s requirements.
On October 20th, Attorney General Karl Racine announced a record $10 million settlement with a DC landlord. The Office of the Attorney General had sued three DARO entities (DARO Management Services, DARO Realty and Infinity Real Estate), accusing them of discriminating against renters with Section 8 vouchers.
DARO has apartment buildings in Wards 1, 2 and 3, including Connecticut House in Van Ness and Sedgwick Gardens in Cleveland Park. In addition to paying the largest discrimination penalty in US history, DARO must “dissolve its property management business, and all defendants will be permanently banned from owning a residential real estate management company in DC.” DARO has 18 months to transition the management of its buildings to a third-party company.
These developments played a role in the DC Tenant Advocates Coalition’s (TENAC’s) 2022 General Election endorsements, released on November 2nd. TENAC did not endorse any candidates for mayor or Council chair.
A tenants association fundraiser: The nonprofit Brandywine Tenants Association is raising money to cover its annual corporate fees and tax prep costs by using the unique talents of its president, a professional photographer. E. David Luria will do headshots for any Forest Hills resident in return for a $20 donation to the BTA. These are done at the Brandywine’s lower lobby against a green, black, or white background, and can be used for social media, visa applications, or made into prints for friends and family. Luria also has software to reduce wrinkles and smooth skin tones and will deliver electronic images within 24 hours. Contact him at [email protected].