December 23, 2008

Slow progress on housing improvement

This story popped up in the Washington Post on Saturday (following up on this great and apparently on-going investigative series on the plight of lower-income housing in DC):

The owners of some of the District's most run-down apartment complexes have made major repairs in recent months, correcting more than 2,300 housing code violations, as D.C. leaders continue to pursue a sweeping lawsuit meant to rid the city of dangerous buildings.

The repairs have come after a months-long crackdown by city leaders, who have fired housing inspectors and strengthened laws to better protect tenants. Attorney General Peter Nickles asked D.C. Superior Court in April to force repairs and impose fines at 13 buildings that had racked up more than 2,800 code violations, with conditions that he said were among the most "egregious" in the city.

Since the lawsuit was introduced, the owners of all 13 buildings have made a series of repairs, Nickles said. Six of the properties were fixed entirely, he said, and have been dropped from the lawsuit.

"We've had a big impact so far," he said.

But housing advocates caution that new violations are not being addressed and that the city is not moving quickly enough against owners slow to make repairs. One example is a building on 10th Place SE, where tenants have been living for years without heat.

"Here we are in December, and tenants are still living in the same conditions," said Bread for the City attorney Rebecca Lindhurst, who is assisting tenants on 10th Place.

The bottom line: public scrutiny in media like the Washington Post and the City Paper, intensified by the efforts of advocates, has yielded some progress in some properties. But the progress is splotchy.

Bread for the City's ace housing attorney Rebecca Lindhurst is out on a well-deserved vacation, so we'll have to wait for some additional commentary from her. In the meantime, many thanks to Debbie Cenziper at the WaPo for her tenacious coverage.

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