Community leaders from the metropolitan area, concerned with worsening housing conditions, met recently to discuss the problems of apartment residents who face evictions.
"People who are evicted seem to be left to the good will of the community," said Dr. Thornell Page, director of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) Cooperative Extension Service. "We hope this is the beginning of a series of meetings on issues affecting the metropolitian area. Problems don't stop at the jurisdictional line."
The luncheon workshop and panel discussion, sponsored by UDC and the League of Women Voters of the National Capital Area, was held last week at the First Congregational Church of Northwest Washington. The luncheon was attended by about 60 representatives of community and tenant organizations, the Metropolitan Washington Planning and Housing Association and local governments.
Panelists included Douglas Harman, Alexandria city manager. Michael Brenneman, president of Brenneman Associates, a condominimum developer; Adelaide Miller, a tenant advocate and attorney with Neighborhood Legal Service, and E. Meyers Harrell, a landlord-tenant consultant with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. John Hampton, director of client services for the D.C. Rental Accomodations Office (RAQ), served as moderator.
"The kind of eviction that is in people's mind is dislocation caused by the rapidly accelerating inflated housing market," Hampton said. "In the District of Columbia a house appreciates $1,000 every 81/2 weeks."
"Any area that has a high concentration of low-income people is concerned with housing," Harman said. "Entire communities, for example garden apartments, are facing eviction for condominimum conversion.
"Local government can provide services-emergency housing legal advice to tenants, identification of displacement housing stock and other agencies involved with replacement public housing, and Section 8 subsides for eligible persons."
Harman cited the Shirley-Duke Apartments as an example of a "crisis" for local government. That complex of 2,000 low-income units was emptied recently to be converted to condominiums.
"Nine agencies provided services" in that case, Harman said. "Individuals have a range of needs and governments need to provide them. It is impertative to pu ll government services together. Local governments need to budget for these emergency situations."
Miller, of the Neighborhood Legal Services, cited "a housing crisis in D.C.," and explained the "legal logistics" of evictions. "Nobody can be put out without due process of law. Ever eviction has to go through the courts."
Brenneman, a condominium developer, said "the District of Columbia (is) undergoing an enormous change.
"The housing industry does not create conditions," he told the audience. "Developers don't create demand. Conversions couldn't happen unless the buyers were there."
Brenneman attacked the theory of a "back-to-the-city" movement. "Most buyers are from D.C. There is not a stream of people from the suburbs coming back into the city.
"We desperately need a decent study of the city housing stock at various economic levels. Housing isn't going to happen without private industry. A partnership between government and industry is needed."
He suggested that the city give governments-owned vacant housing to developers at no cost, "so we can sell to low and moderate-income people."
"The housing industry in this country has never built anything for low-income people," Hampton countered. "They get their housing by a trickling down, and in D.C. that is at a standstill. Low and moderate-income people are impacted in their markets. There is no place for them to move.