When he signed the Fair Housing Act, President Lyndon B. Johnson said that one of the promises of a century, “fair housing for all, is now a part of the American way of life.” In a piece of sad irony, on April 12, a day after the Fair Housing Act turns 45, the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA) will take that promise away from thousands of families by closing its waiting list for housing assistance [“Public housing waiting list to close April 12,” Metro, April 4].
For many struggling families of color, single mothers with children and individuals with disabilities, the waiting list is the best shot they have to obtain a clean, safe home. More than 13,000 families use housing assistance in the District, and more than 70,000 families and individuals are waiting. How many more will simply be left out in the cold when the waiting list closes? While DCHA described closing the waiting list as a way of managing expectations, the result will be to cripple the expectation that anyone — not just the wealthy — can live in the nation’s capital.
Rather than closing the door on so many, the District should take three important steps: First, increase funding for housing assistance, perhaps by using some of the $100 million recently allotted to affordable housing. Second, check the eligibility of those on the waiting list. Third, continue to fight the discrimination against those on assistance that erects real barriers to the efficient use of housing assistance programs.
Donald L. Kahl, Washington
The writer is executive director of the Equal Rights Center.