Statement Before The City Council

Statement to the

District of Columbia City Council

by

Karen V. Wright, President

526 Kenyon Street NW Tenants’ Association

October 19, 2005

 

First, I would like to thank Chairperson Sharon Ambrose of the Committee on Economic Development, for the opportunity to express the views of the 526 Kenyon Street Tenants’ Association regarding The Department of Housing and Community Development.

 

The mission of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is to provide quality and affordable housing opportunities and to increase home ownership for the residents of the District of Columbia. DHCD supports housing development projects by funding acquisition, pre-development, construction and renovation costs.

 

The 526 Kenyon Street Tenants’ Association continues to express support for the concept of affordable housing in the District of Columbia. Without this program, we the tenants would have not been able to secure our residence in the city. As you are well aware, with all of the development and re-development within our city, the concept of affordable housing is being pushed by the wayside. Many of the District's neighborhoods are rapidly changing, due to escalating real estate prices. Non-profit housing developers face increased challenges in their efforts to quickly respond to market opportunities to acquire developable sites for affordable housing, due to the lack of readily accessible financial resources.

 

Having said that, can you imagine how many things can go wrong? Fortunately, 526 Kenyon Street had the pleasure of working successfully with Mr. Simon. Attached is a letter written to Mr. Stanley Jackson, dated January 14, 2005, with a copy to Mayor Williams. Please feel free to read at your leisure, but in essence, the letter states that if Mr. Simon is any indication of the work ethic of the DHCD, then that department is a shining star and is setting an excellent example of what customer service is truly about.

 

Our 526 Kenyon Street Association is comprised of Spanish, Caribbean, African and Black-Americans. The ability to get everyone working together for what is best for the association is difficult. You have different cultures and ethnic traditions to consider, but the coaching we received from the DHCD on how best to approach the situation really helped-as did our superb legal team from the Harrison Institute of Law.

 

On December 14, 2004, we went to settlement and purchased our building and now we have a stake in the city and our affordable housing is preserved for years to come. But today, we are here to emphasize how important this Department is to the residents of our city. If you were born and raised in the city and the have to move, because you can no longer afford to live here, that is a shame. If you choose to leave on your own that is one thing, but to be forced out financially is another. We must continue to provide realistic hosing opportunities for our district residents.

 

While at the settlement table with our Association, Mr. Rudden of Rudden’s Realty said that, he has started this process a thousand times in this city, but that this was the first time he made it to the settlement table. To me, this should be the rule not the exception. Can the city do more - the answer will always be yes. Does the Department meet its mission statement - that answer is yes as well.

 

In closing, I would like to state that, the Department of Housing and Community Development is doing a good job in addressing the issues of affordable housing in the District. With an increased budget it could do a lot more.

 

Thank you for your consideration and have a great day!