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Tenants band together amidst continuing DC housing crisis

Rent controlled housing is coming to an end, but D.C. lawmakers have already filed for an extension.
Credit: WUSA
Michael Williams has been a D.C. renter for 20 years. He is pushing for renter protections to continue once the current rent control act comes to an end.

WASHINGTON — Renters from across the city got together on Saturday for a conference that aimed to confront D.C.'s growing housing crisis head-on.

While the issue of affordable housing is nothing new to people who live in the District, those involved with the conference say the lack of affordability is only getting worse.

“I believe we're in the top five cities in the United States, with un-affordability,” Johana Shreve with the Office of the Tenant Advocate said. “We're here today to examine some of the areas of concern relating to why D.C. is in that position and what can we do about it.”

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Shreve said she and her colleagues were at Saturday’s conference to listen to tenant’s voices -- tenants like Michael Williams.

"People who've lived here most of their lives now find themselves on the short end of being able to afford to live in a rental unit," Williams said. "So, it's been devastating for some populations, for some segments of the city."

Credit: WUSA
The issue of affordable housing is nothing new, but the protection renter's have could be changing.

Shreve said the goal of the day was to let renters know their rights and what options they have, as well to also let them know that changes are coming to the District’s rent control.

"Next year, the rent control legislation must go into renewal in 2020. This is the hundredth year of rent control," Shreve said.

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Rent control is the Rental Housing Act of 1985 and is the District’s affordable housing program.

DC council members are already working to extend the program through the Rental Housing Act Extension Amendment Act of 2019.

If passed would extend rent control to 2030. 

Credit: WUSA
Tenants at the 'Confronting DC's Affordable Housing Crisis: A Community in Action' conference learn about the options and rights they have as renters.

It’s something Williams said renters can’t afford to lose.

"I was shattered to think what the consequences would be if they do not renew rent control," Williams said. "What you will see is their takeover from the landlord's."

Williams said that rent control helps keeps things a little bit more balanced for people, but if eliminated in the District, could create even larger problems.

"The way our housing crisis is right now, I shudder to think what will happen," Williams said. "I don't think it will be anything positive."

Shreve said the purpose of the conference is to get tenants ready and prepare them with the right knowledge of how to handle housing situations.

"I have a philosophy that says if you don't know the rules, you can't play the game,” Shreve said.

Public hearings are scheduled to talk about the rent control, you can view the calendar HERE.

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