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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.