D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) appealed to about 20 of the city's biggest subsidized-housing landlords yesterday to slow down their evictions and to house the 283 families living in city shelters.
Crawford, who owns and manages several apartment buildings in the city, has sponsored a controversial bill to limit the amount of aid to homeless families and the length of time they can stay in a city-run shelter. He told the apartment building landlords and managers that they have a responsibility to help the city by making apartments available to the homeless families he characterized as "someone many of us don't want."
"The homeless families are ones we have all evicted for nonpayment of rent or for doubling up," he told the landlords. "This city is paying far too much for those evicted. We are using up our money. I am seeking your efforts to help us with this problem."
In a flier given to those attending the meeting held at the historic Sumner School at 17th and M streets NW, Crawford said the number of families seeking emergency shelter increased 500 percent during 1986, from 39 to 245 families. He said the city is so desperate that it is renting apartments for emergency shelter that are below housing code standards and are costing the government $3,000 to $4,000 a month.
This is the first of three meetings that Crawford, who is chairman of the Committee on Human Services, has planned with District landlords.
"We realize these families may cost you some more overhead," he said to a generally friendly but skeptical audience. "What will it take? What are we talking about -- $100 or $200 a month? We will guarantee the rent. We have put in for a utility grant."
Realty company owner J. Gerald Lustine told Crawford that the city has "the best intentions but it doesn't trickle down to the landlord. We need the city to make each tenant responsible. It is very depressing to spend a lot of money and then see the apartment demolished. We can live with it if they don't pay but when they take the apartment apart, we can't live with that."
Crawford suggested the city create a vandal allowance to pay for damage caused by some homeless families.
Elliot Bernold, executive vice president of Edgewood Management, said, "It is nice that you are willing to repair the damage. But I would like a clause in the contract that says you will take the bad tenants back to the shelter and keep them there until they understand. No one wants to live next to people like that."
During the 1 1/2-hour meeting, Crawford mentioned several times that the owners of buildings with subsidized units could be scrutinized more carefully by the city.
After the meeting, he was asked if that was meant as a threat.
"The threat is the paper work," he said. "No one wants more paper work. We could make them document each unit as to who lives there and how many residents are in each one. I think the cooperation was obvious. I saw several of them nodding their heads as I spoke. They were a bit apprehensive, that is all."
Crawford said he now owns only a few apartment buildings, but that he had already rented units to people from the homeless shelter.
"I couldn't go in front of my colleagues and ask them to do something I myself won't do," he said.