A story in yesterday's Washington Post incorrectly reported details of a rent control proposal being studied by the D.C. City Council. The article should have stated that the Council is considering removing controls on rents for luxury apartments.
Several members of the D.C. City Council sharply criticized Mayor Walter E. Washington yesterday for what they termed the failure of the mayor and his staff to develop a comprehensive housing plan for the city.
The criticism came at a public hearing on rent control before the Council's housing committee, which most Council members attended. Some Council members charged during the day-long hearing that the mayor had given housing a low priority, in his administration and further criticised the mayor for not ordering his staff to respond to Council requests for statistics on the city's housing needs.
In an interview later with a Washington Post reporter, Mayor Washington dismissed the Council charges as "rhetoric" and maintained that housing has a high priority in his administration.
The mayor also said that recent funding increases in housing rehabilitaiton programs and new housing construction for low to moderate income families indicates his administration is pursuing an active role in addressing the housing needs of the city.
"We've tried to respond appropriately (to the council). Housing does have a high priority, and we've tried to take advantage of every title (federal hosing programs) and program available," Washington said.
He said much of the information the Council has requested has already been provided in studies, community development reports, past hearings and in testimony from the city's housing director.
Council member Nadine R. Winter (D-Six), chairman of the housing committee, criticized the mayor's office for not supplying the committee with statistical information she said the Council must have to enact rent control and comprehensive housing legislation.
The committee had requested that the mayor and eight members of his staff testify at the hearing. But only two member of the executive branch, housing director Lorenzo W. Jacobs Jr., who represented the mayor, and Bowles Ford, the city's rent administrator, appeared.
During the three years the city has experimented with the present rent control law, which expires Nov. 1, rent control has been criticized by administrators, landlords and tenants alike as a poor solution to the housing needs of the city's middle to low-income residents.
Several months ago the City Council received results of a housing study by the Development Economic Group, a local consulting firm, which concluded that the city should dismantle its rent control program because of its "many deleterious effects to the housing stock." The study also said no rental apartment construction had taken place in the city since 1973.
Winter, in her opening statement yesterday, said that she is committed to rent control as long as there remains a housing shortage in order to prevent "rent goughing."
But Winter and her committee have had under consideration one proposal that would phase out rent control entirely, and another that would limit its effects mainly to controls on high rent luxury apartments and apartments that are vacated. Another proposal under discussion is in the city to subsidize rental apartments.
Council members Winter and Arlington Dixon (D-four) have both introduced bills that would grant automatic rent increases next year of from 3 per cent to 9 or 10 per cent on existing apartments.
Dixon's bill also creates a rent subsidy program for eligible low and moderate income tenants and ties future increases to the consumer price index. Winter's bill limits future increase from 1 to 4.5 per cent.
Mayor Washington said his view is that controls of the current law, if rent control is to exist, are better than the two bills proposed by Winter and Dixon. He also said rent subsidies should be considered as a separate matter.
The announced purpose of yesterday's proceedings was to hear expert testimony from those affected by the present rent control ordinance and future legislation the council is considering - mainly builders, apartment owners, tenants and the city's housing administrators.
But Council members said they had been frustrated in their attemps to get adequate data on what is needed in housing assistance from the staff of the city's housing department.
"They way that I understand what has been said here today (by other Council members) is that since 1975, the Council has been trying to get something concrete from the housing staff," Council member Hilda Mason (At large) said.
Other Council members echoed her concerns.
When Council members ask Jacobs when he could answer the four-page list of questions they said were hand carried to his department June 3, Jacobs said his staff did not receive the requests until June 13 and that he could come back in a week to tell them the date when he could answer their questions.
"Everybody, including me, would want to have a nice pat answer," Jacobs said. "But I am not in a position to give them that. We need further study on what rent subsidies low income people need."