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We need to #CanceltheRent & Mortgage Payments Now!

Washington, D.C. is facing an unprecedented economic crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer has estimated that unemployment could reach 20%, bringing incalculable harm to D.C. residents. Just last week, a full 1% of the country applied for unemployment benefits.

While the emergency measures that have been passed so far are essential for containing the immediate impact of the pandemic, and we're grateful to the Council for heeding our call to close D.C. Superior Court to all eviction proceedings through May 15, job losses and other lasting effects will linger for many years. These economic effects are turning out to be even worse than anticipated, and it is clear that the city needs to step up with a more ambitious effort to protect residents.

We therefore demand:

  1. Cancellation of rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the state of emergency, plus one month. No one knows how long this pandemic will last. It is no good to impose a moratorium on evictions alone, only to force tenants out when the eviction moratorium expires. With so many Washingtonians already out of work, we need to cancel rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the state of emergency, and allow a one-month cushion.

  2. A two-year rent freeze on increases while the city recovers. We cannot allow the crisis to become the death knell of working-class life in Washington, D.C. Landlords should not make back their losses on the backs of struggling renters, and should not raise rents while tenants struggle to get back on their feet.

  3. The right to counsel in eviction cases. The crisis is likely to cause a wave of evictions throughout the city; we must help tenants defend themselves in court by fully funding legal services and making an attorney available to any tenant who wants one.

  4. Tripled funding and vastly expanded eligibility for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and the elimination of annual limits on frequency and amount. ERAP’s small budget, high barriers to entry, and annual limit severely limit its ability to help a broad cross-section of DC residents. Expanding the program will help make it a pillar of D.C.’s response to the crisis. Residents who have claimed ERAP earlier within the last year should remain eligible for ERAP prospectively in light of the current crisis.

  5. The enactment into law of the Reclaim Rent Control platform in its entirety. The previous demands are all temporary, emergency fixes to a city that is already wracked by a housing crisis. One of the keys to a long-term solution to Washington, D.C.’s housing crisis is a broad-based rent control law.

We are entering an economic emergency that will rival the Great Depression. Now is not the time for half-measures. Now is the time to protect our tenants and save our city. Tell Mayor Bowser and D.C. City Council we need action now!

Are you not going to be able to pay rent on April or May 1? Have you lost wages due to COVID-19? How have you been affected the pandemic? Fill out the survey here to join ONE DC organizing efforts.

Homes for All Assembly Report-back

By Brook Hill

Between July 18th and 22nd, ONE DC members Keisha Harden, Janice Underwood, and myself attended the Homes for All Assembly convened by the Right to the City Alliance in Atlanta. The assembly brought housing justice organizers together from across the country to discuss housing challenges, share solutions, and plan how to react to those challenges nationally and regionally. The assembly was also an opportunity to introduce attendees to and invite comment on a training tool that includes a blueprint for building a grassroots group and an articulation of shared values. The ONE DC delegation was able to establish ties with groups working in nearby cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Newark, and to strengthen ties with folks from D.C. that we were already familiar with.

The first full day of the conference was spent discussing the current state of our housing work and collectively planning what we would need to do over the course of the next decade to achieve our goals. Despite the fact that the group included people from east, west, north and south, many of the problems they faced were surprisingly familiar. Low-income communities of color face displacement fueled by commercial and residential real estate development not only in cities that have been earning reputations as expensive places to live like DC, New York and the Bay Area, but also in places like Lincoln, Nebraska; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Nashville, Tennessee.

The solutions they are seeking to implement are familiar too; just cause eviction, right to counsel, tenant opportunity to purchase, and rent control. Even though these tenant protections have not solved all of the problems facing tenants in cities where they exist – such as the District of Columbia – tenants’ rights would be a lot more elusive without them. It was inspiring to hear about serious campaigns to pursue them in so many places. If tenant protections become common outside of DC it will be easier to push for even stronger protections in DC. Folks were serious about what it would take to accomplish these things, as much of the plan for the next ten years included spending a lot of time door knocking, making phone calls, recruiting members, building coalitions and raising funding. 

The second day of the conference was about what it would take operationally to achieve the plans that were laid out the day before. Appropriately the day began with a direct action because after we do the work of bringing people together, disrupting the status quo with protest is important to bring about change. However, the rest of the day was spent discussing the less glamorous work of building a group that can fight for housing justice in a meaningful way. To that end, the Right to the City Alliance introduced the Homes for All Handbook, movement DNA. It is a pamphlet with a dozen or so pages that lays out the shared values of the Homes for All Coalition along with step by step instructions on how to build a group. The techniques reminded me of what I had learned as an organizer at ACORN and New York Communities for Change and they were packaged in an inviting and digestible fashion. The Homes for All Handbook has the potential to be an invaluable tool for new organizers and tenant leaders.

On the third day, everybody attended a training session. The one I decided to attend was about development without displacement and community control. We participated in an exercise where we imagined that we were planning our ideal community and the facilitators would approach us and try to offer us things that would ‘improve’ our communities – we’d have to think about the consequences and reject or accept the offers. It was a great exercise. After that, we heard about how one Bay Area community group teamed up with a community development corporation to successfully fight for an alternative vision of development in their community.

ONE DC members Janice Underwood, LaKeisha Harden, & Brook Hill

All in all, the conference was a great experience. We were able to deepen our ties with other DC organizers, networks with other organizers in the region, do some reflection on our work in recent years and begin planning the future. The other ONE DC members and I left Atlanta inspired and anxious to continue building at home. 

Over 100,000 Voices Demand Congress to Reject Cruel Rent Hikes

Tenants and organizers outside the U.S. Capitol

This morning at 11:00 AM, representatives from ONE DC, Bread for the City, and the Poor People's Campaign delivered a petition with over 100,000 signatures to House Financial Service Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling to demand the protection of housing rights for low-income renters across the United States.

After cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthiest people and in the middle of an historic national housing crisis, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson and President Donald Trump have asked Congress to pass legislation to raise rents for all residents of public and subsidized housing and triple rents for the lowest-income residents.

This cruel proposal has sparked outrage from people across the country and in the District, where the proposal would mean a rent hike of $900 per year for the poorest families, and would put seniors and families with young children to risk of homelessness in the nation’s capital.

Local and national groups including Right to the City, an organization of which ONE DC is an organizational member, have collected over 100,000 signatures from people demanding Congress refuse to pass any proposal to raise rents and instead make the investments necessary in HUD to provide housing assistance to everyone.

Keisha, Janice, & Angie - Members of the Shaw Housing Education Team

“The housing crisis has reached emergency levels. More than half of all Americans spend over 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities, including me and my family,” said Paulette Matthews, a resident at Barry Farm Public Housing. “Now Ben Carson and Trump want Congress to help them make it worse. I’m proud to stand with people all over the country in telling Congress to remember who they work for and reject this cruel proposal."

The petition delivered was sponsored by Americans for Tax Fairness, CarsonWatch, Center for American Progress Action Fund, CPD Action, Daily Kos, MHAction, Partnership for Working Families, People’s Action, Progress America, and Right to the City Alliance. Click here to add your name to the petition.

People's Platform organizer Kelly holding the 100,000 signatures demanding a stop to rising costs for low-income renters