WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today released a report detailing the lack of independence at the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA) and calling for reforms to the agency’s governance.
The report details how political influence has compromised the independence of the agency, the consequences political influence has had on the agency, and provides solutions to create genuine independence. It comes on the heels of an assessment from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that found DCHA was failing to serve District residents and comply with federal rules and regulations, as well as the proposal of legislation from the D.C. Council that would reform the agency’s Board of Commissioners (the Board).
“As the District’s first independent, elected Attorney General, I have made standing up for tenants and cracking down on slumlords one of my core priorities. But there is no way to end tenant abuse and neglect in the District without addressing DCHA – the city’s biggest slumlord,” said AG Racine. “DCHA has been hijacked by political influence and the prioritization of political loyalty over knowledge and expertise. This has led to a loss of mission focus, a lack of checks and balances, and an exodus of talent, the consequences of which have fallen on our most vulnerable residents. That’s why I’m proposing these reforms – real solutions, not changes for the sake of changes. We need reforms that increase accountability and independence, not hastily concocted attempts to silence the voices of those who have been raising the alarm about the agency’s dysfunction for years.”
Specifically, the report recommends the following changes to DCHA’s governance to remove political influence from the agency. These governance recommendations are one piece of the broader reform efforts needed to ensure the agency is fulfilling its mission of providing safe and stable housing for District residents.
- Removing the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development from the Board
- Ensuring Board appointments are based on qualifications, not political loyalty
- Raising the qualifications for the executive director
- Improving DC Council oversight over the agency
The recommendations presented in the report are the result of months of research, conversations with stakeholders including tenants and advocates, and thoughtful deliberation. The proposals outlined in the report represent an important first step towards addressing the structural problems that have led to DCHA’s dysfunction.
On Thursday, AG Racine sent a copy of the report to all Council offices as well as invitation to an informal briefing on its findings and recommendations. This comes in advance of an expected vote next Tuesday on emergency legislation that would silence the voices of critics and tenants on DCHA’s Board. AG Racine has urged Councilmembers to vote against the legislation and has advocated for the Council to take a thoughtful and collaborative approach to reforming the Board in regular order. Only a comprehensive overhaul of the agency that includes these and other fundamental reforms will begin to set DCHA on the right course.
Read the full report here.