DC Council temporarily pulls bill overhauling public housing authority board

The D.C. Council pulled emergency legislation that would have revamped the D.C. Housing Authority’s board of directors Tuesday evening.

“There are still a few members who are feeling some uneasiness,” said Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who added that they would bring the legislation back for a council vote in two weeks.

“Time is not on our side to just wait and to not do something now,” said Mendelson.

The legislation was introduced to the council on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser, in response to a critical report released by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, which found unsafe and unsanitary conditions at some public housing units in the city.

In a letter to the council chair accompanying the legislation, Bowser said the bill, if enacted, would allow a new board to oversee reforms at DCHA and address the concerns outlined by HUD in its report.

The report said the public housing agency was in disarray, and didn’t provide decent housing to the city’s low-income residents who rely on it. Some of the examples included pictures of a vacant unit covered in mold caused by an active leak.

During a housing authority meeting in October after the report’s release, residents presented to the DCHA board stories of “deplorable conditions,” including rat- and mouse-infested buildings. One resident claimed they caught 90 rodents.

“Well, if we don’t replace it, then we are left with the status quo,” Mendelson said at the Tuesday council meeting after a grueling hours long legislative session. “And that status quo is not going to help us get out of the current problems, even crisis, that the housing authority is suffering from.”

Bowser, upon the release of the report, called its findings “embarrassing” and promised reforms.

The bill would create an eight-member board, down from the current 13. The board will be in place for three years and file quarterly reports on its progress.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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