DC City Council
Committee on Housing & Neighborhood Revitalization Public Hearing on
Bill 23-433, the “Rental Housing Act Extension Amendment Act of 2019”
November 13, 2019
Elizabeth A. Davis, President
Washington Teachers’ Union, AFT Local 6
Good morning. I am Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union. I am here to talk about Bill 23-433, the “Rental Housing Act Extension Amendment Act of 2019.”
The Washington Teacher’s Union represents more than 5,000 active and retired teachers. We are dedicated to social and educational justice for the students of the District of Columbia and to improving the quality of support, resources, compensation and working conditions for the public servants and proud teachers who educate our students. Many of our WTU members live and pay taxes in the District and have kids or family members that attend DC schools. I am a DC teacher and DC resident.
In spite of the dedication and best efforts of our teacher members, far too many students in the District of Columbia are stymied in reaching their full potential. It’s not because of the instruction that our students receive. It’s because of the barriers they face in our schools and in our communities. Barriers like the inability to have a safe and affordable place to live.
DC needs comprehensive reform that protects and strengthens rent control.
D.C. is one of the most expensive places to rent in the US and nearly half of our city’s residents are renters. Rising rents are a major contributor to the displacement of residents -- teachers, students, and families. If we want all students to succeed and we want to close our city’s deep and persistent achievement gaps, we must recognize that the cost of living in the District has an impact on a student’s academic success and proactively address access to affordable housing across our city. That is why I support the reclaim rent control platform.
Rent control is one of the most powerful solutions to housing crisis. Stabilizing rent provides families with stability and security that leads to healthier lives, better education, and stronger communities. Stabilizing rents will help slow racial and economic segregation. Stronger Rent Control also means teachers can afford to live where they teach and students can have stable homes to come to school from.
The District is suffering from a catastrophic affordable housing crisis -- and it demands a bold solution. D.C. already has rent control laws on the books, but they cover too few units and provides landlords with too many easy avenues to eliminate rent-controlled units. We need to dramatically expand the units covered under rent control and make it harder to convert units into market-rate housing.
For too long we’ve measured the success of our school system and of our teachers on the achievement of our students, as measured by a single test. It’s time we stop and begin to look at – and confront – the challenges that our students and families face holistically. I urge you to act today. This isn’t something D.C. residents can afford to delay any longer. The failure to expand rent control now means countless more residents will be displaced, our communities will be further disrupted, and our affordability crisis will become even more entrenched.
No child’s education should depend upon a student’s zip code or their success in a lottery. We need to invest to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality, by-right education in the District of Columbia. The WTU stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders in order to ensure our city’s teachers and education workforce are protected and that all students have access to great educational opportunities. I’d be happy to answer any questions that you have.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today.