(Washington, DC) - Almost 15,000 people could find themselves with nowhere to live this year.
That’s because, in 2007, landlords who own 3,795 rental units have already or will become eligible to opt out of their section 8 contracts. In 2006, 2,118 rental units were eligible to opt out.
So far, one building has opted out, and the city bought another, for a total of 211 units. That potentially could leave approximately 331 families wondering where they can find affordable housing in the District of Columbia.
A tenant in an opt-out situation should know that he or she is entitled to receive what is known as an "enhanced voucher." An enhanced voucher enables the tenant to either remain in place, using the voucher to pay the rent, or relocate elsewhere with the subsidy. While there are some 50,000 individuals on a wait list for fedreral vouchers, a tenant who has an enhanced voucher does not have to wait on line, and under no circumstance should be left without a housing subsidy."
On a recent day at DCHA, senior citizens, working people and moms with babies waited and milled about, hoping to talk to someone about their housing needs. “If you think today is bad,” one resident said, “just come up here on a Tuesday. It’s a jungle.”
Families who qualify for a federally subsidized unit, through a federal voucher or other DCHA housing program, earn less than $60,000 for a family of four, or 80 percent of DC’s area median income (AMI). Most families who receive this housing assistance, however, earn less than $28,350 or 30 percent of the AMI.
What vehicle exists to respond to the affordability question throughout the District of Columbia? How will government respond to the need? These questions and more were partially answered when the DC Council enacted legislation in 2002 in anticipation of the potential loss of affordable units throughout the city.
The City’s Nuisance Abatement Act of 2002 states that owners are required to notify the Mayor of their intent to opt out.
“This legislation provides the initial tools to help the city create a plan of action to preserve affordable units,” says Acting Chief Tenant Advocate Johanna Shreve.
“The OTA was created to help answer these types of questions and to ensure protections,” says Shreve. “So we have our work cut out for us and–I believe the OTA will have an opportunity to step up to assist in this task.”