The People’s Platform is a movement of low-income and working class DC residents of color and people who share our values and vision. We seek to organize, educate, fight for and win truly affordable housing, sustaining work, and wellness for all in DC. The state of income & housing security and wellness for DC residents is bad and only getting worse. Where the city has successfully encouraged wealthier and whiter residents to move into the city, it has destroyed welfare and social programs, attacked workers’ rights and supported a severe reduction in spending on programs for the most vulnerable. The beneficiaries of this policy are the wealthy.
We envision a DC that is equitable and just place to live for all of its residents. We demand that the District of Columbia become accountable to the needs of its residents, not developers and corporations, and not just the 1%.
We will accomplish our goals by centering the leadership of working class black women; being funded by our base; prioritizing political education and leadership development in our work; always seeking to build a deeper analysis and assessing our work; building alternative institutions; learning from past movement's successes and limitations; championing non-reformist reforms; and always seeking to be a part of a broader movement that is multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-gender, and multi-class.
The People's Platform Demands (2014)
Community Control over Land Use:
District of Columbia’s government is not a corporation. Our public officials should not act as developers selling public assets off to various corporate or private interests without any real assessment of the needs of the DC public. This form of governance led by free-market values has facilitated the loss of valuable public property. Community involvement in this process has been severely curtailed. For the most part, these transactions are simply giveaways to private developers. Real community control over land use ends these corrupt giveaways and requires public land be used to meet the community’s needs, not political/private interests.
- Vote against the Soccer Stadium Deal. The focus of DC officials should not be to recruit a private developer to produce yet another stadium that will ultimately displace existing residents and generate seasonal, lowly paid jobs.
- Pass legislation that would stop the devolution of the 27 vacant properties that Office of Planning and Economic Development is currently auctioning off. These parcels should be placed into a Community Land Trust, which will allow for permanently affordable housing and community space.
- Introduce and immediately pass Clawback Legislation to force developers to be held accountable if they receive corporate welfare benefits and then fail to deliver jobs or affordable housing for residents.
Equitable Development without Displacement:
Equitable development means that any urban development project meets the needs of the existing residents, including long-time, low-income residents of color. Much of the development in this city has been geared towards recruiting wealthier “millennials,” while ignoring the housing and land-use needs of families. DC’s commitment to equitable development without displacement requires that public dollars are spent to generate living-wage, unionized jobs, permanently affordable housing, worker-owner cooperatives, progressive tax schemes and much more.
- Provide funding for all units who want to purchase their buildings. Utilize TOPA to create collective models of affordable home ownership by prioritizing the creation of limited equity co-ops with Housing Production Trust Fund money. Currently, the vast majority of tenants are unable to take advantage of the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act because of the speculative nature of the DC Housing Market. DHCD should use HTPF money to help make collective home ownership a viable option for tenants going through the TOPA process. There are many ways this could be done. For example, DHCD could fund complete renovations of properties contingent on the tenants being able to purchase those properties. Also, the District could exercise its right to purchase these properties and sell them back to the tenants at an affordable rate. These proposals would enable many more tenant purchases and also promote equitable community revitalization.
- Introduce and pass legislation that gives tenants the right to purchase their building whenever a developer attempts to opt out of their Section 8 project based contract. Currently, developers and owners are trying to cash in on the changing demographic of the city. As such, they are using every ‘legal’ displacement tactic in the book. For instance, Mid-City Financial is one owner that has ended several project-section 8 contracts and proceeded to only renovate and update vacant units while actively suppressing tenants’ right to organize.
- Introduce and pass a moratorium on all proposed Public Housing demolition and redevelopment. DC government has not been able to show that the New Communities Initiative is capable of providing a true one for one replacement of public housing or that it is anything less than a thinly veiled giveaway or valuable land to developers. District Government should commit to keeping all current public housing units online and immediately rehab and repair off-line units to address the current homelessness crisis. Furthermore, the District should immediately repair and rehab current units that are not up to code.
- Approve at least 7.8 million dollars in Housing Production Trust Fund monies for the additional units of deep affordability at Parcel 42. Residents have long demanded that the promise of Parcel 42 be protected. Gray’s administration rejected residents’ call for investing our tax dollars in the development of Parcel 42, claiming too many working class people of color live in the Shaw area so the project should be primarily market-rate. We reject this area. How can there possibly be a concentration of working class residents in Shaw especially since this neighborhood is one of the fastest gentrifying areas in the city. If anything, the Shaw neighborhood has become a concentration of wealth, displacing the working-class at an astonishing rate. Protect the promise of Parcel 42 and immediately repeal the Office of Planning and Economic Development’s decision not to invest deeper subsidies on this site.
Permanent Housing Affordability:
Housing should not be a commodity in DC; it must be considered a right. The speculative and privatized approach DC officials have towards developing housing in the city has left thousands of DC residents homeless and much more enduring massive rent burdens or risking eviction. To make matters worse, the city adheres to the federal definition of affordable housing set by the Area Median Income (AMI), which allows the city to claim the creation of affordable housing that often does not meet the needs of long-time, low-income DC residents of color. Lastly, the city has allowed the speculative aspect of housing to result in the loss of units covered under affordability covenants, permitting private owners to ‘opt-out’ and cajole affordable housing renters to move out in order to recruit wealthier residents to take their place.
- Immediately address the homelessness crisis by investing in both permanent hard stock affordable housing units and long-term subsidies such as the Local Rent Supplement Program. Immediate investment is needed to empty all shelters, including DC General. Currently, there are thousands homeless men, women and children on the streets and in shelters. Homeless families are being warehoused in an abandoned hospital that sits between a jail and an STD clinic. Moreover, failed policy on both a national and local level have ballooned the District’s subsidized housing waitlist. Because we find ourselves in this place, we must recognize the need for shelter capacity in order to keep people off the streets. Therefore, we demand a moratorium on the loss of any current shelter capacity and further demand that facilities for both families and singles comply with the DC Housing code.
- Introduce and pass legislation that places a moratorium on rents being raised on tenants as a result of federal or local affordability covenants expiring. DC government should immediately set aside local funds to subsidize tenants at their current rent levels in these buildings. In the next five years, the city is projected to lose thousands of affordable housing units produced through tax-exempt bonds and low-income housing tax credits. Action must be taken now to start to address this issue.
- Introduce and pass legislation to strengthen rent control by eliminating Hardship Petitions. Hardships are used by Developers to eliminate rent control in DC. Developers can file these petitions to raise rents high enough to drive current tenants out of their buildings. Increases routinely double tenants’ rents and force them out of their buildings. DC law entitles landlords to these increases to guarantee that their profits remain high while people are driven from their homes. Hardship Petitions should be ended immediately.
- Completely overhaul the Inclusionary Zoning program so that it creates truly affordable units at increased numbers. The current program was implemented in 2007 and has yet to create any real affordability. Instead the program creates “affordable housing” for people making over $60,000 per year. The percentage of IZ units required in all new developments should be increased and those units should include those at 0-30% as well as 30 to 60% of the AMI.
Community and Family Wealth Creation:
Washington, DC is one of the most inequitable places in the country, where the top fifth of earners make $259k on average, and the bottom fifth earn only $9k. We demand policies that will transform this worsening trend.
- Introduce and pass legislation to immediately increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for ALL workers. In order to afford a market-rate housing unit in the city, an individual must earn $27 an hour, more than 2X our future minimum wage of 11.50. Raising the minimum wage will help to reduce the tremendous burden placed on low-income residents.
- Provide a budget allocation for worker cooperative development, provide tax incentives for worker cooperatives, and change its procurement policies to favor worker cooperatives.Worker cooperatives are businesses owned and managed democratically by their employees. They produce an array of economic benefits for low-income communities and have the potential to reduce economic disparity on a long-term basis. They tend to provide higher wages and better economic benefits than other small businesses.
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In 2013, several local grassroots base-building organizations agreed to use the upcoming city council session and mayoral campaign as an opportunity to promote a comprehensive, structurally-oriented policy agenda. While some gains were made over the years, like improving the living-wage and funding the Housing Production Trust Fund, we felt that much more needed to be done to address the needs of poor and low-income DC residents who have a right to live and work in this city.
In the following months, we hosted several neighborhood forums to solicit residents’ feedback on what they want to see from the next mayor. In these sessions, residents vehemently rejected what they saw as misguided leadership—public leaders who are eager to give corporate tax breaks and meet with developers willing to build stadiums, condos, and market-rate retail while ignoring long-time DC residents of color who ask that our public dollars be used instead for the development and preservation of limited equity housing cooperatives and other affordable housing communities. Ultimately, these residents expressed resounding support for structural reforms in housing and jobs. They also voiced a desire for the People’s Platform to be a comprehensive policy agenda that will cover additional issues as more residents and organizations join our alliance.
On March 8, 2014, a coalition of DC’s largest organizing groups of long-time, low-income residents of color came together to hold an interactive mayoral forum with questions created and posed by long-time DC residents. We challenged the candidates to answer to the need for truly affordable housing and greater economic opportunities for DC residents.
For our alliance, the electoral cycle is just the launching pad. We believe our movement for an equitable DC will take years and as such we have committed to working together for the long term to press for these much-needed structural alternatives.
Our policy reforms are rooted in our guiding principles, which we believe will truly manifest DC’s commitment to become a human rights city.