D.C. City Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At large) introduced a bill yesterday that would allow the government to establish a rent-subsidy program for low-income tenants by providing tax abatements to property owners.
Kane said she resurrected the subsidy concept from an unsuccessful bill that she introduced several years ago. She said the program is aimed at "providing housing in a way that rent control hasn't" and should stand a better chance this time because the council is reviewing the city's rent control law, which expires April 30.
Also yesterday, Mayor Marion Barry recommended a bill that would let the District join 11 states in a regional interstate banking arrangement. In a letter to Council Chairman David A. Clarke, Barry said that the arrangement is "of vital importance to the economic well-being of District banks" in an era of increased interstate banking activity.
"Failure to permit our banks to participate in these important growth opportunities," Barry wrote, "could have a severe adverse impact upon jobs, tax revenues and other resources which local banks contribute to the local economy." Six council members cosponsored the legislation.
Under Kane's subsidy bill, the mayor would be authorized to grant annual rent credits to low-income residents provided that the credit is no greater than the difference between 30 percent of the resident's gross household income and the yearly rent due on the rental unit. Owners of such rental units would get a government guarantee of annual property tax abatements equal to the authorized monthly rent credits.
Laws that have maintained rent control in the District for 10 years have authorized a housing assistance program, but no such program has been funded. In introducing a bill recently to phase out rent control over a six-year period, council member John Ray (D-At Large) included a provision for a $15 million annual housing subsidy program to be funded through the city's general revenues and a surcharge on landlords.
In other action yesterday, the council voted to put off until 1987 the elections for "senators" and "representatives" who would lobby Congress for D.C. statehood. Last year, through temporary legislation, the council voted to put off the election from 1984 to 1986.
Council member William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), who introduced the bill, said that some council members feared that voters might confuse a 1986 election for prestatehood representatives with the 1986 council election.
But before the council voted, Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) tried unsuccessfully to get the council to delay the elections until after the District becomes a state. She argued that the representatives would cost District taxpayers about $2 million a year.
Other members, however, argued that voters had supported the idea in a 1979 initiative. Only two other members, Kane and H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), voted for Schwartz' amendment.