January 27, 2020 | Press Release

Councilmember Nadeau Introduces Bill to Protect Public Housing Tenants from Displacement

Nadeau bill formalizes tenant protections in advance of hearing on public housing transformation plan

This legislation would require DCHA to provide the Council with 45 days notice before submitting “demolition/disposition” plans for public housing properties. It would also clearly outline the rights of potentially displaced District residents in public housing and ensure that impacted residents are able to access and maintain housing on redeveloped properties. Councilmember Nadeau is joined by a majority of the Council, as well as a majority of the members of the Committee on Housing. Co-introducers include Councilmembers Silverman, Trayon White, Robert White, Grosso, Allen, Todd, and Cheh.   

“This government has a responsibility to it most vulnerable residents not only to provide them with safe, dignified housing, but also to ensure that in doing so we are not displacing them,” said Nadeau. “Too often we have seen residents scattered during redevelopment projects, with no clear plans for their return. When this happens, we are destabilizing families and communities. Our residents need real guarantees that they will be supported and have housing to return to.”

DCHA is moving forward with its “Transformation Plan,” which calls for the demolition and/or disposition and substantial rehabilitation of approximately 2,610 units of public housing across 14 properties. DCHA’s Transformation Plan anticipates using public dollars and private partnerships with developers to redevelop its traditional public housing portfolio into mixed-income communities. The Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization will hold a hearing on this plan on Friday, January 31 at 3:00 p.m.

Taylor Healey of Bread for the City’s Legal Clinic commented on the introduced legislation: “To demolish and/or rehabilitate almost 4,000 public housing units through a "plan" that history shows leads to the permanent displacement of black and brown families and the destruction of communities is reckless. Yes, many of these units are in extreme disrepair, but there isn't a one-size fits all solution. This legislation is critical to ensuring that the DC Housing Authority puts its residents first, is transparent about how decisions are made, and is realistic about the current housing crisis in the District.”

The demolition and/or disposition of public housing units as part of this plan will result in the issuance of thousands of Tenant Protection Vouchers to individuals and families currently living in the 14 public housing properties. These individuals and families, many of whom need 3+ bedroom units, will be forced to locate and qualify for appropriately sized and priced rental units in the District’s extremely limited private affordable housing market. In addition, enhanced screening criteria, including credit requirements and criminal background checks more stringent than traditional DCHA public housing admission criteria, can and have been used to screen out former and new public housing residents returning to redeveloped units in DCHA’s mixed-income communities.

Currently, DCHA has rules in place for public housing admission, recertification, transfers, and hearing and grievance procedures in the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (“DCMR”). Additionally, DCHA has existing tenant protection policies and practices that are not codified or clearly outlined in an accessible place. Councilmember Nadeau’s legislation takes the existing DCMR rules, DCHA’s own tenant protection resolution, and unwritten policies and practices and codifies them in the D.C. Code to ensure that they apply to all public housing replacement units.

The displacement and disruption caused by relocation and new resident screening, particularly amidst more restrictive return criteria at mixed-finance properties, has been widely cited nationally as a barrier for public housing residents to be able to return to replacement housing. The legislation introduced today by Councilmember Nadeau would codify protections for those tenants in perpetuity.

A copy of the bill as introduced is below. 

Contact: David Meni, dmeni@dccouncil.us, (202) 724-8101