November 26, 2013
On Wednesday, November 20, over 70 people filled the meeting room in the Tenleytown-Friendship Heights Library in support of Housing For All. Many assume that Ward 3, DC’s most affluent ward, to be insulated from concern over affordable housing that impacts the rest of the District, but students, clergy, and concerned residents all came out to learn and speak up for affordable housing. The event was co-sponsored by Good Faith Communities, a network of churches who serve the homeless and marginalized and advocate for adequate affordable housing and services. Many of their member congregations are located in Ward 3.
Among the Ward 3 organizations present were many that reach city-wide to help meet the need for affordable housing and resources for people who are homeless. Speakers shared impassioned stories of how Ward 3 organizations like Somerset Development Company, Community Preservation Development Corporation (CPDC), and Friendship Place have helped revive communities and touch lives.
Velle Phillips is a longtime resident of 1350 Clifton Street NW in Columbia Heights, a property owned and managed by CPDC. She spoke of the importance of her apartment for herself and her four children. “Just keeping my rent affordable helps me, because I don’t make a lot of money.” She values the education her children can get nearby and appreciates having her children “in an area where you’re going to see something beautiful and also something useful.” Somerset Development Company is currently working to preserve affordable housing and add workforce and market-rate housing at nearby Portner Place, keeping affordable housing in one of DC’s hottest markets on U Street. John Horsey told the moving story of finding housing with his wife after years on the street, including in the park across the street from the White House. Now, thanks to Friendship Place, they are able to have a place to call their own.
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh joined the Ward 3 Town Hall as well. Councilmember Cheh has been outspoken in her concern for people who are homeless in DC. She reaffirmed her commitment to addressing the needs of those who are homeless in DC, and investing in affordable housing.
See more photos of the Town Hall in Ward 3.
November 20, 2013
On Saturday, November 16, over 100 Ward 8 residents spoke up for housing at the Ward 8 Housing Fair and Town Hall. They were able to meet with 20 nonprofit, business, and government agencies who could assist them in their housing challenges. In addition, Councilmember Muriel Bowser (Ward 4), Councilmember Anita Bonds (At-Large) and the DC Department of Housing and Community Development Director Michael Kelly all voiced their support for affordable housing and took audience questions. We’ll share more take-aways from the Town Hall in a few days, but for now, here are some pictures and highlights:
City Leaders Support Affordable Housing – including $100 Million for Trust Fund
When asked directly if they supported $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund, all three government leaders stated and unqualified “Yes!” Both Councilmember Bonds and Councilmember Bowser stated that the $100 million committed to affordable housing by Mayor Gray and passed by the Council last year was just the tip of the iceberg.
Ward 8 Residents Deserve Housing They Can Afford
Residents spoke out in support of housing across the Continuum of Housing. Chearie Phelps-El spoke of her struggle to find housing after incarceration. She continues to struggle to find a permanent place to stay in addition to other barriers to reentry. Tawanda Clemons told the story of her commitment to being a good mom, and good neighbor, and working with her community to preserve her housing as affordable. And Marilyn Phillips spoke with excitement about becoming a new homeowner in Ward 8 at a property currently being renovated by Manna, Inc. Audience members cheered on commitments to affordable housing and told their own stories at a Speak Out after the town hall.
Take a look more pictures from the Ward 8 Town Hall HERE.
October 29, 2013
CNHED Executive Director Pohlman testified on Oct. 23 in support of legislation that will ensure that Certified Business Enterprises (CBEs) are able to gain their fair share of contracting and procurement opportunities in District assisted projects while at the same time enabling nonprofit developer to earn their fair share of the developer fee.
September 19, 2013
DC has a rich history of housing cooperatives, in which each resident owns a share of the entire property, not just their unit. While relatively unknown, there are at least 120 co-ops in DC, many of which are a great source of stable, affordable housing.
In a cooperative, each resident owns a share in the corporation that owns their property, entitling them to reside in a specific unit. The corporation has a board of directors and a management company, which maintains the property, screens new residents, and determines monthly fees or carrying charges.
Nationally, cooperative housing began in the late 1800′s, but contemporary co-ops first appeared here in 1920. Banks would not finance the purchase of co-op units and condominiums did not yet exist, so early co-ops were a way for wealthy urban dwellers to own their homes and have control of their buildings. DC’s earliest cooperatives were built along Connecticut Avenue, and the most famous example may be Watergate East, built in the 1960s.
Today, the creation of a co-op in DC usually takes a different path. Empowered by theTenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, many residents of low and moderate incomes consider cooperative ownership when their apartment building goes up for sale.
The DC government supports some tenants who choose this route by committing public funds for the purchase and rehabilitation of these buildings to make them affordable to the current tenants. Previously, federal Community Development Block Grants were a major source of funding for co-op development; now, the most likely source is DC’s locally-funded Housing Production Trust Fund.
The cooperatives created with public funds are limited equity co-ops, meaning that there are restrictions on the price and resale value of a membership share. This ensures that cooperative units remain affordable in the long term.
Public investment in co-ops makes ownership available to low-income residents and helped maintain a much more diverse group of co-op residents. Today, there are co-ops in every ward of the city, with 3,000 residents living in 86 limited equity cooperative buildings.
Co-ops are tucked into neighborhoods around the city: garden apartments like Brightwood Gardens in Ward 7, an eight-story building in Logan Circle, a cluster of apartments in Columbia Heights named after civil rights worker Ella Jo Baker. These housing co-ops were created to preserve affordable housing and provide opportunity for residents of low and moderate income around the city.
Although many are skeptical that these tenants can own and maintain their own properties,61% of DC’s limited equity co-ops have been around since before 2000. This proves that co-op residents can own, maintain, and revitalize homes and communities.
On Saturday, organizations that support DC’s co-ops will hold a DC Co-op Clinic to help strengthen the internal functions of DC’s housing co-ops. Workshops will focus on how to be strong stewards of a collective property for this unique form of home ownership. For more information, check out this flyer.
Many DC renters can’t access the tax benefits, stability and capital that a limited equity co-op provides, and traditional homeownership may not be possible either. Cooperative housing started as an option only for the wealthy, but today it’s a gateway to homeownership and financial stability for those who need it most.
This article is also available on Greater Greater Washington
September 16, 2013
Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine asks the question, “What kind of city does DC want to be?” Unfortunately, it doesn’t get at a core issue that is determining what kind of city the District is: the question of who is able to live and flourish there.
As the magazine highlights, DC is clearly at a turning point: retail is returning to downtown, over 1,000 people are moving into DC every month, and people who are homeless are no longer highly visible downtown. What it misses is how the changes that have happened over the last decade have made DC a more difficult place to be poor.
For tens of thousands who lived through the bad times in DC, the good times are not looking much better. DC is one of the most difficult places to afford rent in the nation, so for many long-time residents, DC’s boom means having to leave.
Since 2010, DC has lost half of its low-cost housing and the cost of homeownership has risen steeply. At the same time, services for homeless and low income people have been pushed out of easy-to-access areas like Franklin Shelter, and moved to cheaper, far-flung areas. The shelter and its legacy in serving people who are homeless, some of whom still congregate at Franklin Park, was not even mentioned in the article about the park’s current and future use.
As the cost of housing rises, it is crucial that the District focus as much on making housing available to all as it does on transportation, green spaces, and retail. Talking about the District without raising the issue of where people will live is to forget that DC’s pupusas, half-smokes, and jumbo slices are made by people who also want to live where they work and are vital to the District’s success.
The kind of city DC will be rests on a core unexplored question: will we be the kind of city that keeps low income residents in the city, or will become a city solely for those who can afford to pay for it?
This article also appears on Greater Greater Washington.
August 19, 2013
A documentary follows a changing city in the middle of an economic boom. In one scene, long-time residents talk about how hard it is to find a place to live. In another, a young professional standing in a coffee shop talks about the new condos and awesome night life. Sound like DC? It’s actually San Francisco a decade ago during the dot-com boom.
Boom! The Sound of Eviction tells the story of the San Francisco area at a time when new jobs and innovation in the tech industry attracted lots of new people and money to the area. Many of the stories told in this film seem like they could be from DC today; individual families being pushed from downtown the to edge of the city or region, working class communities struggling to stay together, and local resistance to displacement.
What is strikingly different about the two regions are the legal protections tenants have to stay in their homes. This is especially true in Oakland, CA, where renters had even fewer rights than in San Francisco. In Oakland, landlords could remove residents with a 30-day no cause eviction. According to an organizer in the film speaking at the time “a landlord can give a tenant a 30-day notice [for eviction] and its completely legal.”
These evictions without a reason, or cause, allowed landlords to remove low income tenants and raise rents whenever they wanted. This became a key organizing issue, and a group of concerned residents began Just Cause Oakland to push the city of Oakland to adopt stronger tenant protections. They won just cause for eviction legislation in 2002. This wide-ranging legislation won many tenant rights DC has had for decades including: limits on rent increases, requiring cause for eviction, and requiring a judge to rule before an eviction takes place (landlords cannot just evict tenants on their own).
In DC, those tenant protections were won through community organizing that happened before this boom, and have helped to prevent even more displacement than we have had. Beyond the tenant rights that were won in Oakland, DC tenants also have the unique tool of the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). With TOPA, tenants don’t just have protections to stay in their homes, they also have the right to have a say in what happens to their homes, or even become the owners. We Own This, a short documentary on tenants who now own their homes using TOPA will be shown with Boom! The Sound of Eviction this week. Together the movies show the dangers of having an economic boom without protections and planning that keep low-income residents in the city, and the opportunities that good programs can provide.
Learn more about both DC and San Francisco at our screening of Boom! The Sound of Eviction and We Own This on Tuesday, August 20, at 6:00 PM at Martin Luther King Library 901 G St. NW Room A10. RSVP and share on Facebook.
July 23, 2013
On Monday, the Washington Post published a story about the changes on 14th Street. CNHED’s office is located in an alley off of 14th and U St, so at CNHED the change has been impossible to miss. Biking to work means dodging construction sites and restaurant delivery trucks parked on the street. It also means noticing a constant stream of transformation: empty buildings and vacant lots become restaurants and condominiums, businesses change hands to serve a richer clientele, and apartment buildings attract new occupants.
As the Housing For All Campaign organizer, it’s my job to know about the affordable housing success stories. Our neighbors on T Street purchased their building to create the first Latino-owned tenant cooperative 20 years ago, so they remain in the neighborhood. Recently, tenants at the Norwood on N Street successfully followed in their footsteps and purchased their building. Across 14th Street from them is one of DC’s premier providers of service to homeless women: N Street Village.
But these affordable housing and services are being overwhelmed by the housing market forces that are sweeping 14th Street. (Symbolically Central Union Mission is relocating and its 14th Street home is being developed as high-end condos.) The handful of affordable apartment buildings that have been preserved over the last few years hardly compare to the 1,200 new high cost units being developed in the area. With condos selling at $900,000 for two bedrooms and rents of $2,700 a month, these rates are unaffordable to the majority of current DC residents.
Let’s be clear: gentrification in overdrive has serious negative consequences, particularly for residents with lower incomes. Yes, the 14th Street development explosion is amplifying a vibrant street dynamic, producing tax revenue for the District, and creating lots of new jobs (though mostly low wage). But 14th Street is demonstrating what’s happening around the District: businesses are scrambling to house and serve the influx of more wealthy, educated people who are arriving at over 1,000 people a month, while low-income tenants are pushed to the outer edges or outside the city to find a place they can afford.
At CNHED we believe that all District residents deserve housing at a price they can afford. We are concerned that not enough housing is being built or preserved that serves the needs of current residents with lower incomes. We urge Washingtonians – united across all income levels – to call on our government to take greater strides to ensure there is housing affordable to all District residents.
The Housing For All Campaign needs you! Click here to join today.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user: tedeytan
July 2, 2013
A documentary series on gentrification in America’s cities.
Brought to you by CNHED’s Housing For All Campaign
Join CNHED’s Housing For All Campaign this summer for a summer movie series that looks at the impact of gentrification and urban renewal on cities across the country. All documentaries will be paired with a short movie about DC tenant rights and history in DC and will be followed by discussion about the film. Showings will start promptly at 6:00. Download the flier for all four movies.
Tuesday, July 16 at 6:00 PM
Martin Luther King Jr. Library
901 G St NW Room A-9
The history of urban renewal in Southwest Washington, DC. community. The community was bulldozed, then rebuilt. It ended by changing the face and character of Southwest forever.
Tuesday, July 23 at 6:00 PM
Martin Luther King Jr. Library
901 G St NW Room A-9
Tensions rise in a community in Columbus, Ohio, when gay white homebuyers move into a working-class black neighborhood.
Tuesday, August 6 at 6:00 PM
Martin Luther King Jr. Library
901 G St NW Room A-9
The story of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. In 1985, African-American, Latino, Cape Verdean, and European-American residents in Roxbury, MA united to revitalize their community.
Boom: The Sound of Eviction
Tuesday, August 20 at 6:00 PM
Martin Luther King Jr. Library
901 G St NW Room A-9
Like DC today, when the dot-com industry was booming in California, it made it hard for existing low income residents to stay in San Francisco and Oakland. Housing prices were rising at the same time that a lack of tenant protections sped up displacement.
June 27, 2013
On June 26, the Council added $3 million more for affordable housing in the Budget Support Act (BSA) and committed potential future funding towards the plan to end homelessness. READ MORE ABOUT IT!
May 29, 2013
After two very busy years, my time with the Housing For All Campaign has finally come to a close, and my title as the Housing For All intern will soon be passed on. I never thought saying good bye would be so hard, but it has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. When Elizabeth asked me to write this post I had no idea where to start or what to say. I started jotting down details about my internship and why I enjoyed it so much, but the truth is: it was extremely difficult to frame my two year experience into a few short paragraphs. Not only have my tasks been completely varied, but after a while I developed a passion for community organizing that even the most elegant words can hardly express. I will truly miss the enthusiasm-filled town halls, hours of phone banking and Saturday outreach shenanigans. Each task, including the sometimes hours of data entry, has been humbling, rewarding and enlightening, and I will forever be grateful for these experiences. I have learned a great deal during my time with CNHED, and I will be able to contribute an enormous part of my future success to this position.
My time with the Housing For All Campaign showed me the real power of organizing, and for this I will forever be grateful. Gathering people in numbers and putting pressure on government officials to react have become my key to understanding how to achieve change. I wasn’t reading about movements in textbooks or standing on the sideline, I was a part of the action. Interning with the Housing For All Campaign ignited a spark that had previous been extinguished. For the first time in my life, I was challenged to talk about the problems I saw in the world and develop strategies to resolve them; I was reminded that standing up for what you believe in sometimes meant going into the streets equipped with picket signs and fancy dresses, but above all I learned that demanding change is the only way to truly achieve it.
To say the least, my experience with the Housing For All Campaign has been extremely memorable and life changing. As I have grown with the Campaign, I have watched our supporters’ and volunteers’ enthusiasm grow and that has been my greatest inspiration. Each person I have met has touched me in their own way; each testimony I’ve heard has provided me with another reason to continue the fight towards equality. After our most recent win, I know there is no stopping you all. I know that you guys will continue to work until DC becomes a place where all residents can have decent and quality housing at a price they can afford, and I am happy to have been a part of the movement. Because goodbyes are always way too hard, I’ll just say see you later and thank you for everything.
CNHED Outgoing Intern Shaunte Wilcher