In #TestimonyTuesday, DC Affordable Housing, Washington, DC
graphic image reading reclaim rent control

Good afternoon Councilmember Bonds, Councilmembers, and Staff of the Committee, my name is Hannah Garelick, and I am a community organizer at Jews United for Justice, a local grassroots organization that organizes thousands of Jews and allies in DC to fight for social, racial, and economic justice. We appreciate that Councilmember Bonds is holding this hearing to continue listening to tenants and advocates working towards creating a stronger rent control program and safer and more secure housing in the District. As a member of the Reclaim Rent Control Coalition, JUFJ fully supports the campaign’s platform. We are in full support of the Rent Stabilization Program Reform and Expansion Amendment Act of 2020.

Jewish tradition teaches us the value of dei machsoro, ensuring that all people have resources sufficient for their needs. We must care for everyone and ensure that all people in our community have what they need to live with dignity and respect. All people have a right to stable and secure housing, and rent control is one of the District’s most important tools for keeping rent affordable and preventing displacement. However, strengthening and expanding rent control is critical to meet the needs of our community. 

The current rent control laws do not allow for the creation of new rent controlled units. And as you know, the District has lost more than 50% of its original rent-controlled homes and there are fewer and fewer rent controlled homes every year because they are demolished or de-controlled. As a result, the District’s supply of rent-controlled housing will eventually disappear. We ask you to act now to update rent control laws by:

  • Expanding eligibility to owners of 4 units or more, including many 4-unit building that are currently exempt;
  • Expanding eligibility to properties built before 2005;
  • Connecting eligibility for rent control to a dynamic date so that new buildings are subject to rent control after 15 years; 
  • Limiting rent increases to buildings exempt from rent control to one increase per year.

We can’t allow DC’s rent controlled apartments to just disappear. Expanding rent control to include more buildings is critical for creating real equitable housing. 

JUFJ is proud to have been part of the coalition of organizations that years ago pushed for the legislation that now shields seniors and tenants with disabilities from having to pay 2% annual rent increases on top of CPI. But there has been an affordable housing crisis in the District that disproportionately affects Black, brown, and low-income renters for far too long, and the effects of the pandemic are only exacerbating the crisis. As low income District residents’ jobs and incomes are being threatened, even more tenants are facing eviction or forced displacement. The Council must act to eliminate the extra 2% annual rent increase, so DC residents can stay in their homes and in the city. 

As a multi-racial but predominantly white organization with a middle- and upper-middle-class base, JUFJ is acutely aware of our community’s role in the gentrification of the District of Columbia. Our awareness of this system and our community members’ individual acts to try to counter its negative effects are not enough. Expanding rent control is a systemic solution to the systemic housing affordability crisis. It takes strain off of other housing programs and will protect more tenants in the long run. We urge you to implement additional systemic solutions by enacting all of the recommendations of the Reclaim Rent Control platform.

The Torah teaches us to create a world where everyone has what they need to live with dignity and respect, to live with all of their needs met. What exists today is not meeting the needs of every District resident. It is incumbent on DC Council to support legislation to expand rent control and ensure that every resident in the District has access to affordable and stable housing. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify today.

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