Lorenzo W. Jacobs Jr., director of the D.C. Department of Housing Community Development, defended his department yesterday against criticism that the city has no comprehensive housing policy or plan.
"I assure you that it has both - housing plan and policy," Jacobs said at a press conference. He then proceeded to refer reporters to voluminous documents, including the city's community development block grant application, the city code, draft plans for neighborhood development, and a draft report dated last November that discusses general city goals and policies.
Jacobs said he was responding to criticism by elected officials that he had read in newspapers, and attributed such attacks to "persons who have political aspirations." Housing is a "highly emotional issue," he said, and suggested that "some persons have taken advantage of that."
Jacobs' leadership of the housing department has come under frequent critism voiced by some of the city's elected officials and some community activists. .D.C. City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker and At-Large Council member Marion Barry, both of whom are running for mayor this year, have recently been in the forefront of such critism.
Housing has become a major political issue because of its high cost, the apparently dwindling number of moderately priced rental units, and the displacement of the poor by the more affluent in many inner city neighborhoods. Some Council members complained about the lack of an apparent overall city housing policy, and a few have called for Jacobs's removal.
When asked if he thinks the Destrict is in a housing crisis, Jacobs responded that city in the midst of a "serious housing situation." He contended that his department has a program for meeting housing needs - a program that he said is annually updated and submitted to the City Council for its approval. He cited tht city's rehabilitation has loan program, building loan program, and code enforcement program.
Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), chairwoman of the council's housing committee, was at the press conference. After the conference, Winter, who has urged that Jacobs be fired, passed out a statement, noting that the committee would hold a hearing May 2 to examine how the housing department uses its appropriated and federal grant funds.
Last Wednesday, Tucker accused the housing department of having "no leadership, no goal." Alan Grip, an aide to Tucker, said yesterday that the council chairman stands by his statements. He said Tucker wants to see a policy that would "relieve the council of having to deal with housing matters on a crisis basis, that will prevent the kinds of things that are happening now from happening.