The District of Columbia could solve its housing crisis by providing more subsidies to renters, stronger condominium conversion laws, city-wide public housing and housing rehabilitation programs that don't displace people.
Those were among dozens of suggestions offered yeaterday by a diverse group of about 20 housing professionals and activists who took part in the city's first "housing summit." The conference was held at Friendship learning Center in Southeast Washington.
The session brought together developers, mortgages lenders, landlords, city and federal housing officials, tenants, community representatives and ministers to talk about the housing problems and goals outlined in Mayor Marion Barry's draft housing policy statement.
D.C. Housing and Community Development Director Robert L. Moore said he expects to have final housing policy recommendations ready for the mayor by the first week in September.
The city recently released documents portraying Washington as a city where one in every five housing units is substandard, where displacement of lower-income families is complete in many neighborhoods and spreading rapidly to others, and where tens of thousands of people need some form of housing assistance.
"What we need," one man said at yesterday's summit, "is a magic wand to wave and solve all the problems."
It was obvious from yesterday's discussion that there is no magic wand, but many pointed out that more money would go a long way. Some questioned how tthe city will be able to fund the lofty goals and objectives in the draft housing policy.
"If the money don't show, the programs won't go," said Loretta Avent, one of the workshop moderators.
"The group, split into 11 workshops, spent hours discussing each goal and objective. There seemed to be general agreement on most of them, particularly those that were broadly stated.
One of the most controversial provisions in the draft policy is a plan to relax rent control restrictions on high-priced apartments. Some tenant activists circulated a petition against it. The petition had about 40 signatures by the end of the workshops.
Some participants asked the mayor to encourage the development of housing for large families, and some asked for programs to help families that purchase homes get aid to maintain them as costs rise. Many urged strict enforcement of housing code standards.