In #TestimonyTuesday, DC Affordable Housing, Washington, DC
graphic image reading reclaim rent control

Good afternoon. Thank you, Councilmember Bonds and the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization for holding this hearing. My name is Hannah Garelick and I am a community organizer at Jews United for Justice, a local grassroots organization that organizes thousands of Jews and allies in DC to fight for social, racial, and economic justice. We appreciate Councilmember Bonds’ efforts on these five rent control bills being discussed today, and, as a member of the Reclaim Rent Control coalition, we fully support the campaign’s platform. The current bills do not go far enough to support and protect tenants in the District. 

Jewish people are currently in the midst of our High Holidays, sitting between Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. This period is marked by three vital values in the Jewish faith — Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah (tzedek) — which can be translated as forgiveness, practice, and justice. Our tradition teaches us that throughout the year, but especially in this time, we should be working towards bettering ourselves, taking responsibility for our actions, and working towards a more just and equitable city. The celebration of our holidays look dramatically different this year with Zoom gatherings, but our tradition and teachings remain consistent. 

DC renters deserve more than what is offered in this legislation. JUFJ supports the Reclaim Rent Control campaign’s positions on the present bills and their platform as a whole:

  • Voluntary agreements must be eliminated entirely; a two-year moratorium just kicks the problem down the road. Voluntary agreements run counter to rent control goals to protect current and future tenants. There is significant and substantial data showing that VAs cause displacement of individual renters and considerable loss of affordable housing for the city.
  • The 2% increase on top of the Consumer Price Index increase must be eliminated, as should the vacancy increase and other loopholes that lead to huge rent increases and loss of affordable housing. 
  • Rent control should be expanded to cover newer units. This would have been an audacious ask years ago, but it’s not anymore. With the loss of thousands and thousands of rent control apartments in the last 20 years, the only reasonable and rational thing to do is bring more eligible apartments into the rent control program.
  • We would like to see the omnibus bill introduced by Councilmembers Nadeau and Trayon White (Rent Stabilization Program Reform and Expansion Amendment Act of 2020 – B23-0873), which includes the full Reclaim Rent Control platform, have a scheduled hearing and move towards a full vote this year so that rent control can be fully and completely reformed as soon as possible. 

Rent control provides predictable, stable rent increases, and prevents displacement. Predictability allows families to plan and save. Stability means families can stay in their homes and have funds for basic necessities, which contribute to better health and education outcomes. We should be doing everything we can to prevent low-income Black and brown families, seniors, and people with disabilities from being even more rent burdened, and possibly displaced, as housing costs continue to rise. Strengthening and expanding rent control is one of our best tools to do that. 

As Jews, as we take this time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to reflect on this past year, we are struck by the systemic challenges faced by too many in our city. As a multi-racial but mostly white organization with a middle- and upper-middle-class base, JUFJ community members are acutely aware of our role in the gentrification of the District of Columbia. Our awareness of this system and our individual acts to try to counter its negative effects are not enough. We urge you to implement systemic solutions to this systemic housing problem by enacting the requests of the Reclaim Rent Control platform.

During this period of the Jewish High Holidays and deep reflection we hope that the DC Council will work towards taking responsibility and work towards a more just and equitable rent control that ensures every person in DC affordable housing. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify.

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