The following is the testimony of community organizer, Terri Acker at a District of Columbia Housing Authority Commissioners meeting on September 14, 2016.
Hello, my name is Terri Acker and I have been a resident of subsidized housing for the majority of my adult life and I have raised 5 daughters here in the city. I am here to testify today and be the bearer of news to the residents from my experience and facts.
Being issued a Section 8 voucher in order to seek housing is in fact not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that it is packaged to look like. In fact, it will be very difficult because the help that District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) says that they will be giving you does not exist. You will have to do most if not all of the searching on your own, and if you find a place you would like to live, you will most likely have to jump through hurdles such as rental & credit history, security deposits, and amenities fees, that the landlords will use against you, so as not to have you rent their places. And those are the nice, decent places that you will want to live.
However, the slumlords will be glad to take your voucher and not do repairs and have you live in their units until you get a notice that the house is under foreclosure and you are told you have to move. This has happened to me at least three times.
The units that are being offered now also are very small and if you have a large family, they are not suitable to live in. There is no dining room or living room at all. I had one house that looked great, only to find rats running through the living room at night. In the end, I had to have an exterminator come out and exterminate because my landlord would not and DCHA did not force them to.
Community Organizer, Terri Acker
The burden of moving from house to house and moving your children from neighborhood to neighborhood causes you to lose a lot of expensive furniture and have to buy it all over again. Not to mention, changing schools for your kids and the fights they may get into being the new kids. It also causes mental instability for the children. Also, the city has a limit on the amount the vouchers can pay and that won’t allow you to get the unit you need.
This money is being issued for a contractor that DCHA will not monitor to ensure that they do the things they are supposed to do like help you to find decent housing.
It’s not as easy. I recently had a fire at my apartment and DCHA isn’t even making my landlord fix my apartment even after 5 months, and the fire was just in the living room. So I am looking for a place right now also and the help I have received from DCHA is that I was sent to a slumlord. We deserve to live in decent housing just like the people that are supposed to be helping us.
In fact, there are many residents at DC General who have been given vouchers and have been unable to find places for over six months. DCHA’s employees…do you care, for real? I told someone here at housing that I had a fire in my unit and she said she knows who I am and that I always have some drama! Does that make me any less of a person than you? Should I be homeless because of life’s twists and turns? NO! And you as a resident of public housing should not be either.
So in conclusion, being able to stay on the property while they build and move into the new units is what would be best if you really think about it. What I am saying is, do your research, ask someone, other voucher holders, think hard and long about your decision to take a voucher, it’s not as easy as it looks. In fact, it is very hard and you will receive little help from the contractors of DCHA.
And board members; please be fair to the residents. You know our city is not accepting the vouchers in the good neighborhoods and making it as hard as possible to use them to rent. Do what is right for a change! Please and thank you!