DC lawmaker hopes bill will protect affordable housing and increase tenant protections

As D.C. struggles to address the affordable housing crisis, one lawmaker hopes a bill he introduced will offer additional protections for people who do find places to live.

Ward 6 councilmember Charles Allen said his bill addresses two issues, one is evicting residents from homes under false pretenses, the other is changing multi-unit buildings into large single family homes.

“The idea behind the bill is to both protect the affordable housing that we do have as well as protect tenants who are probably the most vulnerable folks, from facing eviction under false pretenses,” Allen said.

Allen said the first issue involves what he calls a “loophole” in D.C. law which allows a landlord to remove someone from a home or apartment if they plan to personally use, occupy or sell the property. Allen said some landlords are using the legal out to force people to leave, raise rent and re-rent the properties.

“While you’re not supposed to do that there was really no way to enforce it and people would essentially be kicked out of a home only to find it was rented a couple months later,” Allen said.

If passed, Allen said the legislation would allow a tenant, who was forced out under false pretenses and discovers the unit they left was re-rented in the following year, to go after their previous landlord. The tenant would be able to seek moving costs and other damages.

“It really puts teeth in the enforcement when somebody evicts a tenant under false pretenses,” Allen said.

The bill will also seek to penalize landlords who turn buildings with 10 apartments or fewer into a big single family home. He said those transformations make homes harder to come by.

“The reality is we just lost a bunch of affordable homes,” Allen said.

Allen proposes property owners who choose that option would be charged 5% of the assessed value of the most expensive unit in the building. That total would then be multiplied by the net decrease of units.

“While a property owner still has the right to do it, we make sure that there’s a cost associated with that, because it’s removing housing stock from our city,” he said.

This charge would also pertain to buildings with units which are converted from rentals to condominiums and co-ops.

Allen said the money the city would make from this would go toward the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund which is used to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city.

The bill has passed its first reading in the city council and Allen said he is confident it will pass the second reading as well.

“We want to make sure that we’ve got resources that are coming in to provide and address this affordable housing crisis,” Allen said.

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