Results for "subsidized housing"

Mar 19


D.C. Bar Foundation Funds New Project to Provide Counsel to Tenants in Subsidized Housing

Among the 23 projects that the D.C. Bar Foundation (DCBF) announced last week that it will support is a major new collaboration to provide critically-needed legal assistance to low-income District residents at risk of being evicted from subsidized housing. This new project, featured in a recent Blog of the Legal Times piece, is the culmination of a two-year collaboration by members of the local legal services community, the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, and the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program to address the lack of safe, affordable, accessible, and stable housing for low-income people in the District of Columbia. Legal Aid, Bread for the City, and Legal Counsel for the Elderly will be the recipients of the DCBF funds to implement this new project, with others including the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program joining as important partners in the effort. Read more →

Oct 22


DC Housing Right to Counsel Project Thanks and Honors Volunteers

A DC resident living in the Columbia Heights neighborhood was worried about the eviction case pending against her. But her pro bono attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment and promptly got the landlord to dismiss the suit. The tenant later noted, “It’s important to have a lawyer with you because the landlords have lawyers. There are things about the legal system I just don’t know.” Read more →

Jun 29


Legal Aid Negotiates Settlement for Public Housing Tenants Overcharged for Rent

Legal Aid announced today that it has reached a settlement, potentially worth over $265,000, for approximately 70 public housing tenants overcharged for rent. The proposed settlement would resolve a federal class action lawsuit Legal Aid filed in November 2015 alleging that the owners and managers of a D.C. public housing development had miscalculated utility allowances to which their tenants are entitled. The settlement, which has been submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, would provide monetary relief to all class members for past rent overcharges and also would reduce tenant rents over the next two years by increasing utility allowance amounts. Read more →

Oct 18


Legal Aid’s Beth Harrison Receives Housing Justice Award

Last Friday evening, the National Housing Law Project bestowed its 2017 Housing Justice Award on Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Beth Mellen Harrison. NHLP’s Housing Justice Award recognizes a “new and impressive talent in the field of affordable housing and low-income housing rights” and is given annually to “an energetic and unstoppable activist . . . who is fearlessly and successfully tackling the systemic and often hostile obstacles that stand in the way of safe, decent and affordable housing for low-income and marginalized people.” Read more →

Feb 06


Article Highlights Exploitation of Tenants with Housing Vouchers

A recent article in the Washington City Paper highlights a growing problem in the District: landlords are exploiting city funds by renting apartments with unlawful housing conditions to low income individuals with government subsidized housing vouchers. In a city where the supply of decent, safe, and affordable housing is steadily disappearing, residents with housing vouchers are left with few choices. Landlords know this. They also know that if they rent to these often desperate individuals, they can get a steady stream of income each month from the government, without having to ensure that their apartments comply with the housing code. Read more →

Oct 24


Housing Right to Counsel Project Partners Mark Year One

Leading up to D.C. Pro Bono Week, Legal Aid, Bread for the City, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, and the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center hosted a breakfast on October 13, 2016, to celebrate our pro bono partners on our Housing Right to Counsel Pilot Project.  The Project has been in operation for over a year now, matching tenants who are facing eviction with legal services and pro bono attorneys to represent them in court.

The Project focuses on eviction cases involving tenants living in subsidized housing, where tenants pay a percentage of market rent based on income and a government subsidy covers the monthly rent balance. For tenants with subsidies, the stakes in an eviction case are even higher – losing the case not only results in loss of the tenant’s home but also loss or the threatened loss of that vital housing subsidy.  Read more →

Nov 19


Legal Aid Files Class Action Against Public Housing Provider

Earlier this month, Legal Aid filed a class action complaint in federal district court against the manager and owners of Capitol Gateway Family Rental, a DC public housing development, alleging that they have systematically failed to follow federal law in providing utility allowances to public housing tenants. The lawsuit seeks restoration of a prior, authorized utility allowance amount and a refund to tenants of rent they overpaid – or utility assistance they did not receive – since the changes the defendants imposed took effect in 2014.
Read more →

Sep 18


Legal Aid Housing Attorney Beth Mellen Harrison Named One of D.C.’s Rising Stars

It is with great pleasure that I share the news that Beth Mellen Harrison, co-leader of Legal Aid’s Housing Law Unit, has been recognized as one of D.C.’s Rising Stars by the National Law Journal. Beth is one of 40 “game-changing lawyers age 40 and under” from the private, public, and advocacy sectors in the District.

Beth Mellen Harrison

Beth Mellen Harrison

Beth is an outstanding public interest lawyer and leader in the poverty legal services community. This award is particularly timely as she recently helped launch the new Subsidized Housing Representation Project, a city-wide public interest collaboration between Legal Aid, Bread for the City, and the Legal Counsel for the Elderly to provide urgently needed legal assistance to low-income District residents at risk of losing subsidized housing. Read more →

Aug 29


Legal Aid Supports D.C Office of Human Rights’ Proposed Regulations that Expand Housing Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

Rosanne Avilés, Supervising Attorney -Housing

The D.C. Office of Human Rights recently released a proposal to amend Chapter 10 of Title 4 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR).   The proposed amendments would address several important issues, including providing significant housing protections to victims of domestic violence.

One of the proposals would require housing providers to make efforts to provide safe housing to a victim of an intrafamily offense, including transferring the victim to alternative housing that is either managed or owned by the provider.  Such a proposal would greatly help victims of an intrafamily offense, particularly victims residing in certain federally-subsidized apartments.  Currently, victims of domestic violence living in federally-subsidized project-based Section 8 housing have very limited, if any, options for transferring to other subsidized housing when they need to leave their current housing in order to protect their safety.  Although a housing provider may own or manage multiple federally-subsidized project-based Section 8 properties, there is no law in place right now that requires it to transfer a victim of domestic violence from an apartment in one federally-subsidized property to another such property. This proposal would change that.

Late last month, Legal Aid submitted a comment letter to the D.C. Office of Human Rights supporting the proposed amendments.  In it, we expressed that we strongly support the amendment that will require housing providers, such as owners or managers of multiple project-based Section 8 properties, to transfer a victim of an intrafamily offense to alternative housing that is owned or managed by the provider when needed to provide safe housing to the victim.  This provision will allow victims of an intrafamily offense to retain their housing subsidy if they need to move from their current home for safety reasons. Thus, victims of an intrafamily offense would no longer need to choose between retaining affordable housing and living in safe housing.

We commend the D.C. Office of Human Rights for their efforts to provide greater housing protections to victims of an intrafamily offense and hope the proposed amendments to the DCMR will be implemented.

Nov 10


UN Special Rapporteur’s Mission on Housing in the US

Executive Director

Executive Director

On Sunday November 8, 2009, Rachel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing completed an 18 day mission to the United States.   Professor Rolnik met with officials and activists and saw first-hand the housing crisis in the District of Columbia, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Pacoima and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.   The mission concluded with a national town hall meeting at the Georgetown Law Center with testimony from experts, organizers and formerly homeless persons.   My testimony on behalf of Legal Aid and the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel is available on the Legal Aid Policy Advocacy web page.   More information on the Special Rapporteur’s mission can be found at the web page of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty  and the blog Restore Housing Rights.

Before departing the United States to return home to Brazil, Professor Rolnik issued a press release previewing her finding, which will be contained in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.  While she was encouraged by the efforts of the new administration, she raised serious concerns:

The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, warned at the end of her official visit to the United States of America that, “Millions of people in the U.S. are spending high percentages of their income to make their monthly rent and mortgage payment, face foreclosure or eviction, and live in overcrowded and substandard conditions.”

“The number of homeless continues to rise with increasing numbers of working families and individuals finding themselves on the streets,” highlighted the UN expert. . . “The economic crisis has exacerbated this situation.”

The U.S. has a longstanding and established history of commitment to decent, safe, and affordable housing, dating back to the National Housing Act of 1934, though certain groups such as minorities and Native Americans have not benefitted on an equal basis. Federal funding for low income housing has been cut over the past decades leading to decreased stock and quality of subsidized housing.

During this time, significant efforts have been taken to reshape the face of subsidized rental and public housing in the U.S., often demolishing public housing and promoting mixed income communities. “Though a good goal, implementation of mixed income developments in many cases leads to displacement, discriminatory practices and a reduction of the stock of affordable and adequate housing for low-income households,” stressed Ms. Rolnik.

The Special Rapporteur’s findings resonate with the experience in the District of Columbia.   Throughout the 1990’s, the District lost 6% of its rental housing stock, largely from low-income neighborhoods.  “Housing in the Nation’s Capital, 2002,” Fannie Mae Foundation and the Urban Institute at 31.  This trend continued until the recession in 2008.  At the same time, rents have dramatically increased.  The fair market rent for a two bedroom apartment in the District is almost $1300 per month, an increase of 41% from the year 2000.  To afford this rent without an unreasonable rent burden, a family must earn more than $50,000 per year.  While the pace of the loss of affordable units may be slowing, the impact of the last decade of development is still being felt.  In 2004 alone, 12,000 units of affordable housing were lost and replaced by high cost rentals or high value homes.  As a result, the neighborhoods in which poor and moderate income families can live has shrunk, economic integration has declined and the concentration of poverty has increased.

We look forward to Professor Rolnik’s report and hope that it will influence housing policy in the United States.