D.C. Government harasses landlords and paying tenants

D.C. Government harasses landlords and paying tenants

Cities governed by progressives spend lots of taxpayer money on subsidizing housing for the homeless and the poor. They also force landlords to accept unsavory tenants receiving taxpayer subsidies. Yet, at the exact same time, they increase the cost of housing through zoning regulations that make it harder for the working poor and lower middle class to afford housing without government assistance.

Washington, DC chose to house the homeless in fancy luxury apartments in its expensive northwest, rather than more cheaply in its less wealthy east. That created health and safety risks for the prosperous tenants who lived there, while doing nothing to help the homeless become productive citizens. As the Washington Post reported:

The SWAT team, the overdose, the complaints of pot smoke in the air and feces in the stairwell — it would be hard to pinpoint a moment when things took a turn for the worse at Sedgwick Gardens, a stately apartment building in Northwest Washington.

Moonbattery found it easy to pinpoint the moment that led to this, though:

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In late 2016, the board of the D.C. Housing Authority — which sets payment standards for vouchers issued in the city — increased the maximum value of vouchers to 175 percent of fair market rent, as set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That meant vouchers could be used for one-bedroom apartments renting at up to $2,648 a month, according to Housing Authority documents.

So the city spends more money housing low-income people, than many middle-class people spend on their own housing.

As Moonbattery notes, subsidized tenants are expected to contribute 30% of their income toward rent, with the city covering the rest. But because subsidized tenants’ income is often undeclared (such as income from panhandling, petty theft, prostitution, and drug-dealing), the city probably pays close to 100% of the rent.

This perverse policy was intended to address what the Washington Post called “the twin crises of homelessness and gentrification.” As Moonbattery notes, the city’s “social engineers managed to fill nearly half the building with freeloaders”:

Many of the new tenants are previously homeless men and women who came directly from shelters or the streets, some still struggling with severe behavioral problems.

Due to progressive ideology, the upscale apartment building has been converted into “a dumping ground for people unprepared to live on their own.” Paying tenants have been leaving to escape the chaos.

The tenants paying full price presumably worked hard to be able to afford a nice place to live, only to have left-wing ideologues import a slum into their building. In addition to feces in the stairwell, paying tenants get to experience other distressing stimuli such as a woman who “moans and screams incomprehensibly for long stretches of the day and night.”

It’s not the building owner’s fault:

A spokeswoman for Daro, which owns and manages Sedgwick Gardens, said the company had not taken steps either “to solicit or discourage voucher holders from applying” and noted that it was illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants receiving government rental subsidies.

Having created this problem, DC’s left-wing government plans to address it using coercive measures that will impose massive burdens on hapless landlords:

A majority of the D.C. Council is backing a bill, introduced by [Councilmember Brianne K.] Nadeau, that would require buildings with at least 20 units and 30 percent or more of them occupied by tenants receiving housing assistance to offer on-site access to social services such as health care, nutrition counseling and child care.

First, the city destroys the environment in a building. Then, it forces the landlord to pay for the privilege of being harmed by the city (and the paying tenants, too, because the landlord will have to raise their rent to pay for all the social services for freeloaders).

No wonder cities like this so often have housing shortages. As Moonbattery asks, “Who would want to be a landlord in a place like Seattle, Portland, or DC?” If leftist officials “could turn Sedgwick Gardens into a slum, they can do the same for the USA as a whole” if they take over the national government.

Landlords in Portland suffered a blow when Oregon recently imposed statewide rent control. That will discourage new housing construction and eventually result in rental housing becoming scarcer and more run down. Oregon’s left-wing legislature and governor did this, even though economists say rent controls are destructive. In a 1990 poll, 93 percent of them agreed that rent control “reduces the quantity and quality of housing available.”

Even as they spend vast amounts of taxpayer money subsidizing low-income tenants, cities refuse to get rid of regulations that make housing so expensive in the first place. Housing could be made much cheaper by permitting more homes to be built on a single lot, and by increasing the maximum density and height of development. But zoning restrictions prevent that, driving up housing costs.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for CNSNews.com and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”