The DC Housing Authority is Failing Residents. Here’s How it Needs to Improve.
Hello District Neighbors,
Since taking office in 2015 as DC's first independently elected Attorney General, I have made it a central priority of the Office of the Attorney General to fight for DC’s most vulnerable residents. Nothing is a better example of those efforts than our work to protect DC tenants.
My office has led the fight against housing discrimination and inhumane and unhealthy living conditions in the District. We have sued the city’s most notorious slumlords and have returned more than $3 million to DC tenants, won court judgements that will return another more than $1.3 million to DC tenants to help compensate them for the harms inflicted by their landlords, and recovered millions more in penalties from settlements and court decisions.
We have stood up for tenants and challenged unfair practices, wherever they occur. That includes the biggest slumlord in our city: the DC Housing Authority (DCHA). OAG has sued DCHA not once, but twice, in recent years over their mistreatment of residents because there is no way to end tenant abuse and neglect in the District without addressing the conditions at DCHA.
DCHA’s reach goes far beyond any other landlord in the city; the agency serves more than 50,000 DC residents including more than 15,000 children, more than 6,000 seniors, and more than 10,000 residents with disabilities—which means the agency's failures have farther reaching impacts than any other landlord.
Now my office is releasing this report to compel the structural changes that are needed to get DCHA back on track. We are holding DCHA accountable just like we would any other landlord.
The consequences of DCHA’s mismanagement and failures couldn’t be more serious. Thousands of DC residents have been denied access to safe, stable housing because of DCHA’s dysfunction. Millions of our tax dollars are going to waste. And every day, people are losing more and more faith that things will ever change. Urgent action is essential. We deserve better.
As I look back on my time as Attorney General and prepare to leave office in a couple of weeks, there is no work I'm more proud of than our office's fight for tenants. I am confident that the leaders that follow will continue this crucial work to hold all landlords—including DCHA—accountable to serving the residents who rely on them. This report outlines some crucial next steps.
The solution to DCHA’s failures must be holistic, and it certainly will not come in the form of a backroom deal that aims to silence dissent.
Standing Up for Vulnerable Elders in the District
Our elderly neighbors are an important part of our community, and my office values each and every one of them. Sadly, our seniors are often targeted by scammers seeking to make a quick buck. We do not let that stand.
My office’s Elder Justice Section regularly takes abusers to court in order to recover funds for victims, revoke financial abusers’ credentials, protect victims and other residents from exploitation, and secure civil penalties. We’ve recently had some significant victories:
- Through our partnership with USAO, we secured an 8-year prison sentence for a man who befriended and exploited District seniors to fund his lavish lifestyle, committing multiple crimes, including felony fraud and arson.
- This fall, we secured more than $76,000 in restitution and civil penalties for an elderly DC resident whose former doorman stole thousands from her bank account. He accessed her account 52 times and used the money for his own fun, including concerts, restaurants, and sporting events.
We’re sending a message: Don’t mess with District seniors. Everyone deserves to live out their golden years with dignity and respect.
Honored to be Recognized for Local and National Leadership
Last week was a big week for the Office of Attorney General. On Wednesday, I received the National Association of Attorneys General Kelley-Wyman award– the highest honor an Attorney General can receive. On Thursday, I accepted the Consumer Federation of America’s Philip Hart Public Service Award for my office’s work on behalf of consumers both locally and nationwide. And on Friday, I had the pleasure and privilege of joining many inspiring young people and youth organizations from across the District to celebrate our work championing a brighter future for DC youth. I was heartened to see the immense impact our office has made over the last eight years and am grateful to everyone who joined me in celebrating!
Update On Our Work to Address Algorithmic Bias
In 2021, my office introduced the first-ever comprehensive bill to address biases in companies’ automated decision-making processes, known as algorithms. The bill would require companies to evaluate and correct algorithms that discriminate in housing, employment, credit, and health care.
We garnered support from industry leaders and groups such as EPIC, Georgetown Law Center for Privacy and Technology and the Communications & Technology Law Clinic, Consumer Reports, DC ACLU, and the Center for Digital Democracy. As a result, councilmembers have committed to move the legislation forward during the first quarter of 2023. That is great news.
Even while this new legislation remains pending, every company that uses technology to make decisions about District residents should be aware that existing anti-discrimination laws still bind them.
A Step Forward for Equality
Love is love. A bipartisan group of lawmakers came together to pass The Respect for Marriage Act, providing needed protections for LGBTQ+ and interracial families. The bill, which President Biden signed into law this week, requires states and the federal government to continue to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages. My office is proud to celebrate this important step toward codifying justice and equality!