In a standing room only auditorium at the District’s All Souls Unitarian Church Saturday, District residents met with DC housing agencies, legal service providers and non-profit organizations for the 6th Annual Tenant Town Hall, where residents voiced their demands for affordable, safe and healthy housing.
At the top of the priority list: No more mold! Residents expressed outrage for the lack of responsiveness on the part of both landlords and the DC government to ensure mold-free living. Currently, District housing inspectors, and surprisingly inspectors across the country, cannot cite landlords for mold, only “dampness,” which does not trigger the appropriate remedy for the problem. Residents claimed that when they reported mold issues in the past, property managers simply masked the spores with a fresh coat of paint. And because management is not resolving the issue at its root, the mold reappears within weeks.
In response to the residents’ claims, the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs clarified that it is not certified to deal with mold and “can only regulate within the confines of the law.” Nonetheless, a department representative confirmed that the agency is “always willing to sit down and collaborate [with other agencies to combat the problem].”
DC residents and advocates demanded more of the government’s leaders and agencies and encouraged them to act now to implement effective programs that do not just fix the aesthetics, but get to the underlying problems that feed the mold. Left untreated, some molds can cause serious health problems, especially for children, the elderly and those with other respiratory conditions.
Attendees also discussed the importance of affordable housing in the District and encouraged DC councilmembers to continue to fund these important programs in its upcoming FY 2014 budget vote this week. And while residents are aware of the Mayor’s long-term plan to increase the number of affordable housing units, they also highlighted the critical importance of housing strategies that place families and individuals in homes now.
DC Councilmembers and agency leaders in attendance included: Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, Housing Authority Executive Director Adrianne Todman, DC Department of Housing and Community Development Director Michael Kelly and the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate Chief Johanna Shreve.
The Latino Economic Development Center and the Housing for All Campaign organized the Town Hall with several participating organizations.
Organizers are planning a July 1 meeting to kick off a new campaign to combat mold issues in the District. The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless plans to participate in this effort and continue advocating for stronger health and housing code protections for D.C. tenants. We’ll keep you posted as the details unfold.