- Associated Press - Monday, October 20, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Landlords and property owners in the District of Columbia are finding themselves at a crossroads, grappling with whether to raise rents and benefit from the city’s economic renaissance, or continue to provide low-income housing and help those who’ve been largely left out.

Their individual decisions are likely to shape whether the city can save its depleted stock of affordable housing, which is driving up the number of homeless families as winter approaches.

Linda White, whose three-bedroom home in the city’s Northwest has been the pride of her family for more than a century, said she has kept the same tenant for 12 years for $1,300 a month in rent through the tenant’s housing choice voucher. As her property value soared by 200 percent since 2002, the tenant’s voucher increased by only 2 percent.

“It’s a terrible situation,” White told The Washington Post, (https://wapo.st/11VZ3xS ). “If I keep her, it does not seem fair to me. I can get more money from Section 8 if I find a new tenant, but then I have to put her out.”

Rufus Littlejohn, who owns three properties in Southeast, said he and other landlords are feeling too much pressure from the city to solve the homelessness crisis.



“They are looking to us to fix their problem,” Littlejohn said. “But then, they are giving us more problems by asking us to take more unstable tenants.”

Last week, Mayor Vincent Gray announced a plan to close the city’s troubled D.C. General homeless shelter, a plan that hinges on persuading landlords and property owners to free up units for the homeless. And in the spring, Gray’s administration began a campaign to entice landlords to rent to homeless families enrolled in the rapid rehousing program, which heavily subsidizes rent in four-month increments for up to a year.

Adrianne Todman, executive director of the D.C. Housing Authority, which distributes permanent vouchers to low-income families, said “the circle of places that can be paid for by our voucher is getting smaller and smaller.”

Since April, the city has found more than 800 units with landlords willing to accept the vouchers. But the city still is more than 22,000 units short of the number needed to house low-income residents, according to an Urban Institute study.

Dozens of landlords said the city also could subsidize rents for low-income families beyond the current year-long limit, and reduce bulk trash fines on their properties.

Todman said the housing agency is asking the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to raise voucher limits, which currently provide $2,150 for a family of three. Todman said she’s also thinking about working with the city to limit increases in property taxes or to find other easements for landlords who accept housing vouchers.

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Information from: The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com

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