Letter to the Editor: D.C. needs stronger rent control laws

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The Rittenhouse is a 208-unit building at 6101 16th St. NW in Brightwood that has been the subject of a tenants-rights dispute. (Brian Kapur/The Current/October 2016)

Affordable housing in D.C. is the paramount question! Rent control is the obvious answer! The D.C. Tenants’ Advocacy Coalition believes you can’t have one without the other. It is truly D.C.’s largest affordable housing initiative; it dwarfs all others by comparison, which is why it is vital to preserve. Nov. 15 produced one of the largest turnouts in tenant efforts in memory at the Wilson Building to lobby for bills to strengthen rent control.

Ably led by Latino Economic Development Corporation’s Rob Wohl, groups split up to meet with various legislators. Kudos to at-large D.C. Council members Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman and Robert White, who met with the group en masse and pledged support. Disappointing was the response of Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who did not show despite an overflow throng of tenants at his office. That was especially troubling, since Mendelson has received our group’s endorsement each time he has run for council. Kudos to D.C. Tenants’ Advocacy Coalition board member Eleanor Johnson for her eloquent protest of Mendelson’s absence. Disappointing too is the tally of only four council members firmly declaring for the needed legislative package.

The council needs to recognize that rent control is a key housing issue affecting the almost two-thirds of D.C.’s population who live in rental housing. Bear in mind also that 2018 is an election year — advocacy’s best friend — and that our group’s endorsement is an electoral prize. Tenants insist on support for this vital legislation and that unanimous council support for these bills should be a “no brainer.”

Jim McGrath, Chairman, D.C. Tenants’ Advocacy Coalition (TENAC)