Witnesses line up to defend maligned D.C. housing agency

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer

D.C. residents and nonprofit directors showed up in droves Monday to defend the District housing agency that's now under investigation by the city's attorney general and inspector general.

Dozens of residents told stories about how a program run by the Department of Housing and Community Development had helped them or a family member fix or buy a home, help their business or help them into affordable housing. One woman told the council's Committee on Housing and Workforce Development that her mother, who suffers from dementia, took a bath in her home for the first time in eight years thanks to renovation help provided by the agency.

A nonprofit director admitted the agency had been difficult to work with in the past but had vastly improved under the new director John Hall. Jim Dickerson, founder of the affordable housing developer Manna, said there seemed to be “a leadership vacuum” before Hall took over last year.

“These policies and decisions put several of our affordable home ownership projects at great risk due to failure to act by DHCD,” Dickerson said. “The transparency and interactions with the community and stakeholders left much to be desired.”

He added that seemingly questionable loan, such as the one DHCD provided to the anti-gang violence group Peaceoholics to build affordable housing, was not the norm. Nearly all of the loans are paid back in full, Dickerson said. Peaceoholics defaulted on its loan.

"Whenever funds are misspent or misused it hurts all of us," he said.

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Liz Farmer

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner