New DC Bill Could Make Things Worse for Homeless Families

a person's feet with a bag and skateboard on the sidewalk

“There is mold in my unit and in the building. My kitchen has flooded, my hall closet has flooded, and my ceiling has flooded. There is mold growing because no repairs were made in time. I bought rental insurance and put in a claim for the damage from the flooding, but…they can’t get in contact with the landlord.”

These are just a few of the obstacles that Mrs. B, a mother of three small children, encountered in Washington, DC’s rapid rehousing program. After a series of miscommunications and confusing regulations in the program, Mrs. B and her family are facing eviction — and homelessness.

Tenants in the program have reported unsafe housing conditions from nonworking fire alarms, electricity, and heat, to disturbing pest problems. One tenant had to request an emergency transfer after a rat bit her daughter.

On top of the unsafe conditions, families in the program too often lose their housing when the state ends their subsidies. Mrs. B was approved for 12 months of subsidies, but the program took 6 months to place her. Imagine her surprise when, 6 months into her lease, she found out the clock on the subsidies had started running down not when she was placed, but when she was first approved.

A new bill could make things even worse.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Administration proposed a bill that has reached the DC Council Committee on Human Services. If passed, these proposals — the Homeless Services Reform Act Amendments — will have three potentially devastating effects on more than 1,300 families in the rapid rehousing program.

  1. The rules of the program will be obscured from public view.
    By allowing the rules for the program to be in contracts instead of regulations, the bill will largely eliminate already-scarce transparency about tenants’ rights.
  2. Families will lose their subsidies based on arbitrary time limits.
    By evicting tenants based on confusing and arbitrary time limits, the bill will perpetuate the cycle of homelessness in DC.
  3. It will be even harder for families to appeal terminations.
    By limiting appeals of time limit terminations only to the Director of Homeless Services rather than a more impartial body, the bill will effectively evict families like Mrs. B’s before they can get back on their feet.

Tell the DC Council on Human Services to do the right thing.

Committee members need to hear from their constituents who oppose the Homeless Services Reform Act Amendments. Ask them to keep the rules of rapid rehousing in regulations, stop arbitrary time limits on subsidies, and make it easier for families to appeal subsidy terminations.

All families deserve a safe, reliable home. If you speak out, DC can move toward ending homelessness. RenterPeace has already reached out to express our concerns – it’s your turn.

RenterPeace is a new app that helps tenants get problems fixed faster by making property management easier for their landlords.

Information about this bill and families in the rapid rehousing program was sourced from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.


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