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Residents, Advocates to D.C. Mayor: Don’t Wash Your Hands of Public Housing

As D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser prepares the city’s fiscal budget, public housing residents, along with a coalition of tenant organizing, legal service and advocacy groups, will be calling on her to include $60 million in the spending plan to renovate and repair public housing.

Through emails and tweets, residents of D.C.’s public housing are highlighting the other health crisis in their communities such as deteriorating conditions, mold and lead.

“Significant portions” of D.C.’s public housing “have deteriorated to such a condition as to be potentially uninhabitable or threatening to the health and safety of our residents without urgent action,” the D.C. Public Housing Authority director stated in the agency’s transformation plan.

“The mayor is telling us to stay home. I get that, but our homes are not safe,” said Paulette Mathews, a former resident of Barry Farm and current resident of Kelly Miller public housing.

Daniel del Pielago, Empower DC’s organizing director, said Black residents in D.C. “are disproportionately dying from COVID-19.”

“Mayor Bowser herself said this is linked, in part, to social conditions, including unhealthy housing,” del Pielago said. “Well, D.C. is responsible for over 6,000 such homes. The residents are nearly all-Black and over half are seniors and residents with disabilities. Public housing residents are living through a double health crisis — COVID-19 and unhealthy housing. The mayor needs to put local funding for public housing repairs in the budget.”

The organizations recognize that in the upcoming budget, the mayor and D.C. Council must make targeted spending choices, and those choices will reflect their values and priorities.

“D.C. is fortunate that we came into this recession with full reserves and a sizable FY 2019 surplus,” said Eliana Golding, a policy analyst with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. “Lawmakers must ignore calls from wealthy developers for hundreds of millions in tax cuts and instead prioritize the health and wellness of our neighbors in public housing by providing sufficient funding to make their homes safe.”

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