In 2013, in accordance with our mission to end people’s housing instability in Washington DC through advocacy, outreach, and peer mentoring, PFFC launched its Universal Right to Housing Campaign. The goal is to develop strategies and policies that would increase access to affordable and sustainable housing for DC residents.
PFFC’s advocacy efforts around this topic have led to positive outcomes in terms of preserving public housing in Washington DC and establishing Targeted Affordable Housing, a new mechanism for making affordable and sustainable housing available to the elderly and individuals with physical disabilities who are not able to work.
PFFC started by formulating a draft of a ballot initiative based on the Federal Government definition of what is considered affordable housing. This definition states that the cost of housing should make up no more than one-third of a household’s income. The DC Board of Elections rejected PFFC’s ballot initiative because the definition of what can be incorporated under a ballot initiative cannot have a fiscal impact on the DC budget.
PFFC’s hope is to get people in the DC government, when they develop policies and implement programs, to take into consideration DC residents who are on fixed incomes that do not keep up with increases in housing values. This includes senior citizens, the handicapped, and those who are mentally disabled. Every DC resident should be able to have housing that is affordable following the DC definition of affordable housing.
Starting in early 2016 PFFC, in close collaboration with several of its coalition partners, launched a national Right to Universal Housing Campaign. PFFC’s coalition partners include The National Law Center on Poverty and Homelessness, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, the National Coalition on Homelessness, FACE (Focus, Attitude, and Comment to Excellence), the men and women of Isaiah House, and Be the Change of N Street Village.
Activities during 2016, include: educating participants at the July conference of the National Association to End Housing about the campaign to achieve Universal Right to Housing; co-hosing with FACE two public fora held at the Church of the Epiphany in October and December; and advocacy on the universal right to housing at PFFCs Vigil held on December 20 and 21.
October 26, 2016 Forum: Housing is a Human Right
The October 28 forum, entitled Housing as a Human Right brought together a panel composed of members from PFFC, FACE, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Empower DC, One DC. Participants were reminded that Washington DC is a human rights city. Panel members started by defining “good” housing. Panelists agreed that both affordable housing and public housing need to be addressed. The question remains how to make this possible legally, institutionally, fiscally, and humanely. The theme of the second forum held in early December was “Organizations and individuals giving their input the barriers to obtaining affordable housing.
People of color who still can’t access housing formed an important focus of the activism around universal right to housing at the Vigil. A key theme on the morning of December 21 when Vigil participants visited with Council Members was that men and women dying on the street because they can’t access affordable housing.
March 2017 forum: Meet the Builder: How do We Build Housing that is Universally Available?
PFFC’s second town hall entitled Meet the Builder: How Do we build Housing that is Universally Available? took place in March of 2017. Panelists included: Steve Glaude (Executive Director of the Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development, CNHED); Sarah Scruggs (Deputy Director of MANNA, Inc.); Betty Gentle (Advocacy and Community Engagement Specialist for So Others Might Eat, SOME); and Morgan Jones, (Street Sense Vendor, Film Producer, and Self-Styled Tiny Building Expert). Joseph Young of the Washington Informer will be the Moderator. The audience of housed and unhoused community members posed questions to the panelists.
May 4, 2018 Candidates forum Face to Face: Meet the Candidates
On May 4, 2018, PFFC held a Candidate Forum focusing on Universal Right to Housing; Attendees included: Candidates for the position of Chair of the City Council — Phil Mendelson (incumbent) and Ed Laezere (challenger). Three candidates for DC Mayor attended. Patty Mullahy Fugere, Director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, served as moderator.
The Forum began by asking each candidate to provide a statement focusing on what they will do, if elected, to ensure that all DC residents are able to obtain affordable housing where they pay no more than 30% of their income. The questions posed to the candidates centered on one simple theme: “What would you do to build more universally affordable housing?”
The candidates’ answers featured policy remedies, such as rent control, improved quality of homeless shelters, and increased funding for the D.C. Housing Production Trust Fund, while also highlighting the necessity for a more efficient working relationship between the D.C. Council and the mayor’s office.