District of Columbia City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, who is running for mayor, went to 12th Place and W street and NW yesterday, near the residences of several families who are trying to buy their homes and stave off eviction, to announce that he is urging the real estate industry to impose a moratorium on evictions.
On Friday, the board of directors of the Washington Board of Realtors voted to set up a special committee to help families displaced to conversions of apartments to condominums, private redevelopment, and rehabilitation to locate suitable alternative housing.
On Friday afternoon Mayor Walter E. Washington, who has not yet announced whether he wil seek re-election, announced a new program that will provide rental housing units for several dozen of the city's poorer families.
Also on Friday, the mayor met with a group of tenants from McLean Gardens, a moderately priced rental complex in Northwest Washington where tenants have received eviction notices recently. The mayor set up a special three-member task force act as a liaison with the McLean Gardens community.
The McLean Gardens tenants also met this week with Tucker and their council representative, Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), who is running for reelection, to voice their concerns about the planned evictions.
In this, an election year the high cost of housing, the apparently dwindling number of moderately priced rental units, and the displacement of the poor by the more affluent in many inner city neighborhoods have suddenly become campagn concerns.
TEXT OMMITTED FROM SOURCE. said yesterday of the housing problem. "It's one of the most important issues in this year's campaign.
Every council member is getting calls about rising rents or evictions or things landlords aren't doing that they should be doing. People are making it an issue."
A development boom has hit many previously ailing city neighborhoods, improving homes and businesses and raising the city's tax base, but that book is also being accompanied by the fear of displacement of many longtime renters.
And some of those renters are not standing by waiting to be evicted. The McLean Gardens tenants have fought for years to keep the owners from turning their apartment complex into condominiums or a diplomatic enclave. The 12th Place tenants, with the help of donations, already have raised deposit money for their rundown homes and now are working to get down payment funds.Many of the tenants on their block already have evicted to make way for renovation and new owners.
One McLean Gardens tenants, who asked that his nake not be used, said he thinks the owners of the complex are "stupid" to try to evict the tenants during an election year. "They should have waited until next year," he said. "We're going to be meeting with the candidates, and they probably will be listening to us."
Yesterday, the 12th Place tenants were selling chicken dinners to raise down-payment money to buy the homes they have rented for - four to 39 years. City Council Chairman Tucker bought one of the dinners.
Tucker, addressing reporters on 12th Place, said the District is in the "midst of a housing crisis which is threatening to push increasing numbers of low and moderate income tenants and elderly renters out of their homes and into the streets." He said the few cases that have received recent publicity represent "only the tip of the iceberg."
Tucker said that if the real estate industry would impose upon itself an 18-month-to-two year moratorium on evictions, except in cases involving nonpayment of rent or failure to abide by lease terms, that should give the city enough time to establish a comprehensive housing strategy "to stem the displacement crisis."
Tucker said he knows his proposal "may present some hardships" to landlords, but he insisted that it can be done. He said he has talked to a real estate representative who indicated that he "didn't seem to think it was unreasonable," but added that the representative was to present the idea to others and had not yet called back.
"Private initiatives must be coupled with government programs," Tucker said. "We don't want the market to take over. It takes government leadership."
Tucker said he also has met with banks and savings and loan association officials to try to set up a $10 million down payment and mortgage assistance program, and said he intends to ask the council to consider legislation to help relieve pressure on tenants and landlords. He criticized the executive branch for not doing enough in the area of housing.