After a scathing federal report highlighting the failures of the D.C. Housing Authority, the city’s leaders proposed dissolving the agency’s Board of Commissioners and creating a new “Stabilization and Reform Board.”
The change was proposed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
“DCHA needs an agile board, comprised of experts who understand these issues deeply, so that we can deliver the housing DCHA residents deserve and that our community deserves,” Ms. Bowser explained when announcing the plan.
The Housing Authority was excoriated in a recent federal Department of Housing and Urban Development report for “failure to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing opportunities for residents in violation of program requirements.”
The report also notes that D.C. has the lowest occupancy rate of any public housing agency in the United States.
The proposed emergency legislation would face a vote sometime in the upcoming week from the city council and would replace the current 13-member board with a smaller eight-person board, meant to be in place for three years.
The seven voting members of the board, according to the announcement, would be:
- Rev. Jim Dickerson, founder of D.C. housing nonprofit MANNA;
- Jessica Haynes-Franklin, a real estate professional with experience in the U.S. HUD and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development;
- Melissa Lee, the senior vice president of capital and investments at real estate agency The Menkiti Group;
- Christopher Murphy, Georgetown University’s first vice president for government relations and community engagement, previously deputy chief of staff to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and chief of staff to former DC Mayor Vincent Gray;
- Chairperson of the Board Raymond Skinner, an affordable housing advocate and former secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development;
- The resident who serves as President of the DCHA City Wide Advisory Board;
- The Director of the Office of Budget and Performance Management;
- The Chief Financial Officer or a designee from their office will serve as an ex officio, non-voting member.
The members of the Stabilization and Reform Board will also recommend their replacements after the end of three years.
“It’s understood that the Housing Authority is not working very well, the challenge for us is to turn the Authority around and do it in an orderly fashion. … This legislation helps to stabilize the Authority and ensure that we don’t see more turnover at the top while working this out,” Chairman Mendelson said.
Labor and housing advocates protest the absence of those who currently represent their interests on the Board of Commissioners, casting blame on mayoral appointees for DCHA’s dysfunction.
“The labor position on the board, the advocates’ position on the board, these are the people who have sought answers when these development deals haven’t made sense … It’s the mayor’s own appointees who have contributed to rubber-stamping,” Parisa Noruzi, director of public housing resident advocacy group Empower D.C, told DCist.
Ms. Noruzi slammed the move as stripping residents of representation. “It’s hugely undemocratic when residents of public housing have elected representatives to the board to simply strip that away with no conversation with affected people,” she said.
At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman said she would vote against the mayor’s emergency legislation.
“What this does is use the window dressing of ‘stabilization and reform’ to consolidate the mayor’s power and make this critical affordable housing agency an appendage of the administration and its economic development needs,” she said in a statement.