TENAC Mobalization To Save Affordable Housing



TENAC reminds all who live in rental housing that 2005 is a landmark year for tenants in the District of Columbia. First and foremost is the need to reform the rent control law and support affordable housing in the District. We strongly believe that effective rent control is the royal road to affordable housing.

We applaud Council action taken on May 3rd in support of rent control, and the remedial action taken on the infamous 95/5 scam, denying tenants their right to buy their apartment buildings when they are sold. Neither action goes far enough, however, and we intend to pursue further refinements to 95/5 and vigorous rent control reform.

We anticipate a battle royal with landlords, their lobbyists, and their allies, the realtors and developers, however who will do all in their power to impede affordable housing and further weaken District rent control The reasons for that are simple. They can be spelled out in two words --GREED and MONEY. Flush with windfall profits, D.C landlords are riding high in the saddle. They are doing so, moreover, with the encouragement, if not active collusion of Mayor Anthony Williams, and the oftentimes inadequate support for tenant issues by the Council.

Abuses and violations of the rent control law are such, moreover, that renewal without serious reform of the rent control law to close egregious loopholes will mean little over the long run. Entry-level rent, rent increases, and rent ceilings have spiraled out of control. Evictions have reached new highs. Senior citizens, disabled, and those on fixed or limited income have experienced particular hardship. Tenant associations have been harassed and pushed around. As a consequence, affordable housing in the District of Columbia, as in so many other jurisdictions in the country, with or without rent control, has become almost nonexistent. The rental housing reality we all face is crystal clear:

o Entry-level rents that have doubled in the span of a few years is not rent control!

o Annual rent increases of hundreds of dollars is not rent control!

o Rent “ceilings” that have doubled, tripled, quintupled or more is not rent control!

TENAC has been working long and hard to correct these serious rental housing problems. Remedies do exist. They include bills which would amend rent control to eliminate the outrageous rent ceilings abuse, provide timely notice and information on rent increase time-tables and computations, correct capital improvement inequities, and most important of all, make rent control a rational and meaningful system for long-time established tenants and new tenants alike.

TENAC has an arsenal of services on behalf of tenants. These include: an outstanding record of protecting tenant rights, constant lobbying to save rent control, operating a tenant hot line, which has answered thousands of landlord-tenant questions, forming tenant associations all across the city, maintaining a website, and sponsoring and testifying on legislation. TENAC has greatly expanded its outreach, advocacy, and vigorous fight for the rights of tenants, through all of these services and through vigorous support of landmark legislation to protect tenant association organization spearheaded by long-time tenant leader Jonathan Strong.

We are also pleased to announce that we have engaged the services of a new public service law firm, the People’s Law resource Center (PLRC), under the excellent leadership of Zachary Jay Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe has filed two recent lawsuits, one in the D.C. Superior Court, and one in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. TENAC separately retained PLRC to bring action against the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. In doing so, TENAC joined the lead plaintiffs in this litigation, the New Capital Park Tenants Association, under the outstanding leadership of Kevin Fitzgerald.

The first lawsuit dealt with the so-called “95/5” fraud, which illegally denied tenants the right to buy their buildings when they are sold. The 95/5 scam was the subject of extensive oversight hearings before the Council’s Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs on regulatory activities by DCRA. Testimony before that Committee by officials of DCRA has revealed an almost unbelievable pattern of incompetence, gross negligence, collusion with landlords and real estate interests, and grave violation of rental housing rules and regulations. All of this suggests an agency in virtual meltdown. Testimony was provided on two different occasions in February and March by TENAC panels in support of DCRA reform in general and 95/5 repeal in particular.

TENAC also strongly supports a second tenants lawsuit brought by Mr. Wolfe, against DCRA. In this suit, ten housing code inspectors have sued their parent agency, DCRA, charging discrimination, mismanagement, and retaliation for filing their complaint. We are fortunate to have the services of PLRC and Zachary Wolfe, and we are delighted with the availability of a public service law firm interested in and willing to take on the great cause of affordable housing, tenant rights, and rent control. Access to quality, affordable legal assistance in landlord-tenant matters has been one of our greatest needs. We strongly urge all that can do so to make a financial contribution to PLRC. It is one of the best investments tenants can make. They are at:

People’s Law Resource Center (PLRC)

1725 I Street, NW, Suite 300

Washington, DC 20006

(202) 265-5965

Looking ahead, the tenants movement needs many things in 2005 in order to effectively plan and carry out a successful campaign to renew and strengthen rent control. We need lots of help. First and foremost, we need volunteers to get the rent control message out and to strengthen our organizational outreach.

Finally, as always, we need financial support. Year in and year out, TENAC works long and hard for rent control, affordable housing, tenant rights, and tenant safety, and we do all this on a miniscule budget. Still we have lots of expenses. We run a telephone HOTLINE (628-3699), a Post Office Box Mailing site (PO Box 7237--Washington, DC 20044), and a website, (www.tenac.org). All these things cost money and lots of it.

TENAC needs an office. We have been around for almost 20 years, and we still cannot afford one. If any of you can help provide us one, we would be most grateful. In the epic battle to save rent control and protect tenant rights, the landlords have unlimited resources, and are not a bit ashamed to spend millions of dollars to defeat rent control. Still we are expected to preserve, improve, and renew it all the while operating on a shoe-string financially. Tenants need to wake up, get over their huge apathy, and financially support their own vital interests. We are talking about the roof over your heads, and the people who fight day in and day out to save it. We are talking about tenant rights, tenant protection, and affordable housing for two-thirds of the District’s population. We are talking about waging an effective “Save D.C. Rent Control and Affordable Housing Mobilization.” We have received strong endorsement and encouragement for holding that mobilization this fall. Expressions of interest have come from as far away as the United Farm Workers in Los Angeles and subsidized rental housing organizations in Boston. 





We need to expand our budget and reserves ten-fold. We are asking every tenant in the city to contribute. Your tenant association needs to pass the hat for TENAC. If we got but a modest contribution from each tenant in the city, we could fulfill our goal. We are asking for one dollar from every tenant. If you spread the word in your building, that would help greatly. Those of you who can afford more, please do so. We are going all out in 2005 to strengthen rent control, reform rent control, and to guarantee affordable housing to all who seek it. With your help, we can and will do it. 

Long Live Rent Control!

Long Live Affordable Housing!

Long Live Tenant Rights!