To the Editor:
We represent Daro, the firm that manages Sedgwick Gardens. Since we began participating in the Housing Choice Voucher Program and accepting vouchers, we have been subjected to criticism about our policy, most recently in a story that was published in your paper last week (“Council hearing Thursday on requiring on-site services for housing voucher tenants”). Typically, we do not respond to such criticism. However, last week’s article contained several inaccuracies about our screening process and our interaction with the community that we would like to address.
First, Daro does accept vouchers from eligible tenants at our properties, including at the Sedgwick, and we do screen these potential tenants in the same manner that we screen potential tenants who are not part of the voucher program. This screening process does not include a request for medical records, as we are barred by federal law from asking for this information. This includes records that would disclose information about their mental health. Similarly, we cannot use a prospective tenant’s criminal past as a reason to deny them housing unless the crime is severe enough and has been committed within the past seven years. This has been the case since the D.C. Council passed the Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act of 2016.
This brings us to the article. There are two problematic sections that we feel compelled to correct.
In the first, the journalist wrote, “One Sedgwick resident, herself formerly homeless and receiving housing assistance, told The Washington Post that some of her neighbors had not been properly screened.” This language is ambiguous and does not explicitly say who failed to screen many of the tenants with vouchers who have moved into the Sedgwick. This could lead some readers to assume that Daro was responsible for this oversight. However, the WaPo article to which your article links is clear that the accusation was directed at city officials and not Daro:
WaPo: “Starkes, who is black, said some of her fellow tenants with vouchers were not properly screened by city officials before moving in.”
Second, the final paragraph notes that there have been numerous community meetings about issues surrounding vouchers, and that representatives from Daro have not attended these meetings. It seems that there is one again an ambiguity to parse out here. Daro has, in fact, initiated several formal (11/1/18, 2/18/19 and 5/30/19) and numerous other Sedgwick community meetings over the past year, communicates and addresses all resident concerns quickly, and works diligently with DHS and other agencies on a daily basis. We believe that working in a highly localized manner allows us to better understand the issues our tenants face, and consequently, have not felt the need to attend other public meetings that are broader in scope.
Tenants have a right to express their grievances about vouchers or any other issue, and we hold that they should. When we know there is an issue, we can work better to address it. We trust that you will correct these inaccuracies to set the record straight.
Kimberly Macleod, on behalf of Daro Management