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D.C. Community Leaders Share ‘Better Than Before’ Housing Plans

In a recent online forum, D.C. community leaders laid out several housing plans to meet Mayor Muriel Bowser’s challenge of improving the city beyond the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

During the May 9 forum, hosted by the DC Grassroots Planning Coalition and Empower DC and moderated by attorney Caitlin Cocilova of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, the leaders shared three solution-oriented plans to meet the mayor’s challenge: the Park Morton Equity Plan (Phase I), Vacant to Virus-Reduction and a call for rent cancellation during the pandemic.

Brianne Nadeau, Ward 1 Council member and guest speaker during the forum, heard the proposals and some feedback along with insights on council actions and the upcoming budget process. The councilwoman stated that her priority during the challenging upcoming budget deliberations will be emergency rental assistance to avoid evictions.

Shonta High, Park Morton Resident Council president, shared her Equity Plan, which calls for using a portion of the 130 affordable units at a city-subsidized luxury apartment complex as Build-First units for Park Morton redevelopment.

Reginald Black, of People for Fairness Coalition and the Interagency Council on Homelessness, shared the “Vacant to Virus-Reduction Proposal,” which calls for a more focused and all-out effort during the pandemic to connect the homeless to the more than 10,000 vacant units identified in a recent report by the city’s CFO.

Nadeau agreed that the goal is “housing, not shelters” and called for matching vacant housing units with the homeless.

Roger Williams, tenant leader with the citywide DC Tenants Union, called for immediate action on rent cancellation during the COVID-19 pandemic and, if necessary, a series of rent strikes as well as improvements to the city’s rent control laws.

View the event online at www.youtube.com/empowerdc.

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