DC Council candidates focus on affordable housing during tenants’ forum

D.C. Council candidates shared their plans to address the District’s housing crisis, a major focus during a forum Sunday, hosted by the D.C. Tenants Advocacy Coalition, TENAC.

The council’s at-large Democratic nominees and two candidates for council chair took part alongside incumbent Chairman Phil Mendelson.

Mendelson has served on the council since 2012 and says during this election, his top priorities include crime and housing.

During the forum, when asked about his plan to create more affordable housing, he said there isn’t an immediate solution, but added there are several strategies including increasing the budget and spending more money per capita than other jurisdictions.

“This is my record and what I will continue to do is look for different strategies to promote and increase the supply of affordable housing,” Mendelson said.

Erin Palmer is an attorney also running for the council chair. She says oversight is crucial.

“Housing is a human right and that should guide our principals in terms of how we are funding housing,” she said, adding that an assessment of current needs across the city should be the focus.

Nate Derenge is the Republican candidate running for council chairman. He said he’d like to see more people working hard to afford housing.

“I guess my solution is lets decrease these programs and people may have to move around a little more. Work hard and save up some money,” Derenge said.

Candidates running for the council’s at-large Democratic nomination also addressed affordable housing.

Nate Flemming is an attorney in the District and pointed to several issues, including concerns around luxury development. Part of his plan includes rent control.

“We also have to expand things like the community land trust, anti-displacement legislation and ensuring that residents aren’t displaced,” Flemming said.

Dexter Williams has worked for the council in the past and says he’d like to see it address the issue by looking into social housing.

“Also, we need to be creative in thinking about other unique grant programs because this city is increasingly expensive,” Williams said.

Lisa Gore, an ANC commissioner and retired federal agent, says the city must invest more in public housing and rent control laws.

“With the multifamily (housing), we want to make sure that we preserve those affordable units and that we get affordability covenants that are beyond the 15, 10 year minimum,” she said.

At-large candidates also discussed Mayor Muriel Bowser’s goal of 12,000 affordable units by 2025.

Gore said her focus is on how that will be accomplished. Flemming stressed the need for more units and subsidies while Williams said tax incentives for existing vacant units are necessary.

See the forum online.

Candidates running to represent Ward 3 on the council will participate in a TENAC forum May 18.

Ballot drop boxes will open May 27 and early voting will be held June 10 through June 19. The polls will be open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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