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The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to allow landlords to evict tenants who are deemed dangerous to their neighbors, poking a small hole in the pandemic-related tenant protections that many landlords have viewed as onerous.

But lawmakers narrowly defeated a bill that would have made further concessions to building owners affected by coronavirus emergency measures, including a proposal that would have allowed them to raise rents right away on vacant units.

The exception to the eviction moratorium, which passed 12 to 1 and is being sent to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), allows a landlord to remove a renter if the landlord can demonstrate before a judge that the person poses a risk of bodily harm to neighbors. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), who introduced the measure, said she knows of fewer than 50 cases so far that would have been likely to meet that standard.

“People’s homes need to be their sanctuary,” Bonds said. “When there are threats to their safety and security from other tenants in the building, they need to be able to count on their landlord to take action.”

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Other council members raised concerns about whether eviction was the appropriate method for handling a threatening tenant, arguing that the police are better positioned to respond to violence and that an entire family should not be evicted if one member acts unlawfully.

“If someone assaulted or threatened a property owner, legally, that should be handled by the police department,” said council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8).

The bill was supported by the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, whose vice president, Randi Marshall, said landlords need such a tool regardless of criminal proceedings. “There have been incidents of gunfire in hallways, stabbings, and threats to tenants,” Marshall said. “Right now there’s really no tools we have at our disposal to stop this.”

Council member Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), the lone vote against the bill, said that on the basis of her experience as a D.C. prosecutor, she doubted that the city could provide the legal and social assistance the bill promises to tenants within 30 days.

The council voted 7 to 6 against a proposal from council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) that would have modified a year of prohibitions on rent increases by allowing landlords to increase rents on vacant units immediately. At the same time, that bill also aimed to extend protection from rent increases for tenants who have suffered material hardship from the pandemic for a year past the eventual end of the public health emergency.

A landlord’s assault ignites questions about D.C.’s eviction moratorium

She described the combination as a fair compromise that would boost profits for landlords who have lost income during the pandemic while protecting tenants in need.

In the current rental market, Pinto predicted, most landlords would not raise rents substantially on vacant units even if allowed to. She also said the bill would alleviate the problem of landlords who are refusing to rent some units because of the inability to raise the price.

Lewis George objected, saying the bill would “create incentives for landlords to pressure current tenants to move out.”

Dean Hunter, president of the Small Multifamily Owners Association, said it was “asinine” and “absurd” to forbid rent increase on vacant units for this long. “I wish I had the ability to impact council members’ paychecks for a year and see how they feel about it,” he said. “It shows an ignorance of what it means to run a small business as a landlord.”

Council members also voted 10 to 3 against legislation proposed by Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7), that called on Bowser to use eminent domain to create a public park on the proposed site of a 300-person halfway house in Northeast Washington.

Gray and many Ward 7 residents have vocally opposed the project since the corrections company Core DC won a federal contract to open the halfway house there in 2018. They say the facility would be too large, and that smaller houses spaced throughout the city would be preferable.

On Tuesday, Gray said that the facility could set back recent economic development in the area, and he added that his concern about the project should not detract from his efforts to help former prisoners returning to society.

“I think the Bureau of Prisons should be more cognizant of the needs and concerns that we have,” he said, before adding: “I’ve worked hard to bring our folks home.”

Gray wants to seize property for halfway house to build new park

The city does not have a halfway house, which several lawmakers said makes life harder on D.C. prisoners when they are released to such facilities in Baltimore and other distant locations.

Council member Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large) asked whether Ward 7 needs a park at the site, noting that there are two other parks nearby.

“These are people we have already failed multiple times, and now the council is having a debate on whether we’re going to fail them again,” White said. “[We’re saying]: ‘People who are incarcerated, people who need us now, we don’t have space for you’ — and I don’t think that’s the message we want to send.”

Bowser has expressed concerns about the size of the halfway house but also says the city needs some type of facility for recently released prisoners. She said “a high bar has to be achieved” to seize land by eminent domain.

Gray, Bonds and Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D) were the only votes in favor of the bill.

The council approved Bowser’s request to delay releasing the city’s budget proposal until May 27. The mayor was initially supposed to submit her budget to the council in March, but has sought more time to figure out how to incorporate federal coronavirus relief funds into the city’s spending plans. The Department of Treasury’s guidance on how states can use federal funds will not be released until May 10.

Many lawmakers grumbled about the delay, saying it will limit the council’s ability to help shape the spending plan, especially as a new school year approaches.

“I’m trying to be an equal co-partner in government here, and I feel like I’m being forced to rubber stamp what the mayor’s sending,” said council member Christina Henderson (I-At Large).

After extensive discussion, council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) was the only vote against extending the date.

Correction: Earlier versions of this story said the Council must take a second vote on a bill allowing landlords to evict tenants deemed dangerous. In fact, the bill goes directly to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser for her consideration.

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Coronavirus news in D.C., Virginia and Maryland

The latest: More than two years into the pandemic, covid cases in the D.C. region are rising again, , while liberal Montgomery County asks who deserves credit for its robust covid response. Meanwhile, Black funeral directors still face a daunting amount of deaths from covid and the omicron wave has had an unequal toll in the DMV.

At-home tests: Here’s how to use at-home covid tests, where to find them and how they differ from PCR tests.

Mapping the spread: Tens of thousands have died in the local region and nationwide cases number in the hundreds of thousands.

Omicron: Remaining covid restrictions in the D.C.-area, plus a breakdown of variant symptoms and mask recommendations.

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