DC Council approves housing authority overhaul in final meeting of 2022

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The DC council on Tuesday narrowly voted to temporarily restructure the board of directors of the municipal housing authority amid contentious public debate over whether the agency’s problems could be adequately addressed through a stopgap measure announced just before the vote. was finalized at the last meeting of the legislature of the year.

While the DC Housing Authority has been troubled for years, calls to overhaul DCHA’s governance increased dramatically after a HUD report in September revealed areas of poor oversight and mismanagement that have led to unsafe housing for public housing residents . While lawmakers agree that the current 13-member board structure is failing, they’ve been fighting over an emergency bill from Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), who — in his final iteration — the board would shrink to 9 voting members.

Some councilors have objected to the emergency bill in recent weeks, arguing that it was rushed and clouded by several amendments and amendments. Others disliked that the plan replaces many of the current commissioners, including some of the agency’s most outspoken critics — arguing that the board needs more independence from the Bowser administration.

Mendelson repeatedly amended the bill to address various concerns, including moves to increase DCHA tenants’ voice and representation, but he withdrew the bill two weeks ago when it emerged he did not have the nine votes needed to to approve it.

In the absence of support, the chairman of the DC council postpones the review of the housing authority

The latest version of the proposal, which Mendelson introduced Monday, included an additional change: a 10th, non-voting board member — the chair of DCHA’s advisory board for city-wide residents. Other changes since the original limit the duration of the new board to two years instead of three, and add a requirement for the board to conduct four listening sessions with public housing residents by May 2023. The “Stabilization and Reform Council” remains in place for two years.

“The council can’t fully determine who is on this board, so there’s no getting away from working with the mayor,” said Councilman Robert C. White Jr. (D), adding that the need for urgent change outweighs any problems with the legislative process. “What we’ve done in pressuring the mayor is, working with colleagues, put this bill in a position where it’s not only better, it’s right.”

Councilor Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4) was among those who raised concerns. She touted a separate, non-emergency bill to overhaul governance introduced last week by councilors Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2). Silverman and Pinto say the bill, due for resubmission next year, would provide a more inclusive way to address concerns at the agency — not just the board — with steps to address concerns about transparency and DCHA’s response to the address concerns of residents.

“Resolving DCHA is urgent, but it can’t be so urgent that we don’t bring tenant and dissenting voices into the process to guide decision-making,” said Lewis George, adding that the hasty bill has lost public trust. undermines. “Why would we move a calamity without input from the tenants?”

Silverman, who is leaving the council after losing her re-election last month, also encouraged her colleagues not to vote for the emergency bill: “Vote no, let the alarm bells remain on the council, and let the HUD report and hold the council accountable.” requirements actually push DCHA toward prompt corrective action.

The council voted 9 to 4 to pass the measure, just reaching the supermajority needed for emergency laws. Lewis George, Silverman, Pinto and Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) voted “no”.

Following the board vote, DCHA released a statement thanking Bowser and the board “for their unwavering dedication, support and trust in us as we work diligently to rebuild the agency. The vote to implement a restructured board of directors allows us to co-manage and stabilize the agency in a renewed commitment to the residents we serve. We have work to do and look forward to doing it!”

The council approved several other measures at its last meeting of 2022 and the last meeting of its two-year council term. Many bills first voted on last week — such as a measure to make Metrobus rides free in DC — passed second reading and will now go to Bowser’s desk.

Steve Thompson contributed to this report.

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