There are some 300,000 renters in the District. A new coalition of tenant associations is seeking to amplify their voices.
The District of Columbia Area Tenant Association Consortium, or DCATAC, is a group of 38 people representing 29 tenant associations from all eight wards. David Luria, the president of tenants association at the Brandywine apartments in Forest Hills, is a co-founder.
“In my encounters with other [tenant association] leaders from across the city who have told me how they handle particular situations with their management companies, I have often had the reaction: ‘Hey! Why didn’t WE think of that?’”
DCATAC was the answer to Luria’s next question: “Why don’t we set up a mechanism to exchange tips among all tenant association leaders in this city?”
Sharing information on best practices is one key part of DCATAC’s plan to strengthen and expand tenant associations in the District. The consortium also intends to create a leadership team representing all eight wards and lobby the DC Council and agencies on behalf of all tenant associations. Its members want to combine resources to create the capacity for litigation and liaise with pro bono law firms and DC’s Office of the Tenant Advocate. DCATAC plans to establish a public rating system of management companies. It wants renters to be given tenant association information packages with their leases.
And, its members will support each other in their work on the ongoing issues in their buildings, such as security, maintenance, health and sanitation, and resident relations with management companies.
The consortium’s ultimate goal is to create a powerful advocacy group working for safe and affordable housing. And in this advocacy role, DCATAC has its work cut out for it. The District’s rent control law is up for renewal. The Mayor’s Equity Housing Plan is coming out this year. The consortium wants to provide support for tenants who wish to buy their buildings through the Tenants Opportunity Purchase Act, or TOPA.
DCATAC is to “serve as a powerful political voice on matters affecting renters that come before the City Council, like rent control,” said co-founder Hunter Sabin Bokus, president of the All Four Threes Tenant Association (3333 Wisconsin Avenue). “There are 300,000 renters in this city. If we can represent a combined membership of 30,000 to 50,000 renters, that’s a lot of voters.”
At-Large Council member Anita Bonds attended the consortium’s first meeting on January 15th at the Cleveland Park Library and endorsed its mission.
“Tenant associations are a very valuable tool as they are often the reason that residents coalesce and are galvanized individuals into action,” Bonds said in a statement to Forest Hills Connection. “We also know that tenant associations can demand the attention of government entities and leaders and can call together a wide range of stakeholders on issues of mutual concern…. I would recommend that all tenants take a look at DCATAC and learn more about what they are working to achieve.”
DCATAC also plans to work closely with neighborhood advocacy groups and other tenant advocacy organizations, such as DC’s Office of the Tenant Advocate, TENAC, Can I Live, and the Latino Economic Development Committee. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.