Friday, December 26, 2014

Well, well, well. With 18 percent of D.C. resident below the poverty level, and as much as 30 percent of city residents unable to afford decent housing, public and affordable housing is a major issue in Washington, D.C.

Yesterday, the D.C. City Council completely revamped how it is going to oversee the city's shrinking, mis-managed, ignored public housing program.

Council chair Phil Mendelson created a new Housing and Community Development Committee, led by Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) to oversee public housing and housing affordability. This gives the issue a higher profile.

Mendelson also dismantled the Economic Development Committee led by Muriel Bowser (D), who was just elected the city's mayor. Advocates for the poor and homeless said it as too cozy with developers.

Mendelson merged the health and the human services committees, creating a new, combined Health and Human Services Committee, to be led by Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7). This committee will have some of the oversight responsibility for homeless issues -- a major boost, because the new committee has budget authority.

Meanwhile, oversight of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development was transferred to the Committee of the Whole, lead by Mendelson. The Committee of the Whole is responsible for generating the council's legislative agenda, and is extremely powerful. By moving homelessness issues up to the Committee of the Whole, more powerful legislation can be developed more swiftly to address homelessness issues as they arise.

Mendelson took personal responsibility for receiving reports from the mayor's Interagency Council on Homelessness. That's another major boost, as the interagency council previously reported to two committees (its needs getting lost in the shuffle).

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