By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, jwright@afro.com

The candidates for one of the District of Columbia’s most contested D.C. Council races recently got together to discuss one of the city’s most pressing issues: housing.

D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) is facing a re-election challenge from former D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Lori Parker, Ward 1 activist Sheika Reid and Kent Boese, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in the ward, in the June 19 Democratic Party primary and the winner of the primary will face independents Greg Boyd and Jamie Sycamore in the Nov. 6 general election. The debate was sponsored by The Grassroots Planning Coalition that comprises of civic, political and progressive economic empowerment advocacy groups and took place at the Busboys & Poets on 14th Street., N.W. on March 29.

Sheika Reid is a candidate for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat. (Courtesy Photo)

The candidates addressed how they would deal with the District’s housing crisis.

“As the Ward 1 council member, I am committed to progressive causes,” Nadeau said. Nadeau is in her first term as a member of the District’s legislative bodyand said she is the best person running that will work for affordable housing for all District residents and noted her work in creating 500 units of housing. Ward 1 is located in the geographic middle of the District. Suburban Stats, an online publication that publishes data on population, income, gender and economic statuses of political jurisdictions, reported that in 2017, Ward 1 was 48 percent White, 24 percent Black, 20 percent Latino and four percent Asian.

The average listing price for a home in Ward 1’s Columbia Heights is $764,388, according to Trulia, a web site that tracks home values nationally while the average cost of a house in the District is 545,000, SmartAsset, an online housing publication said.

Parker and Reid are the two African Americans in the race. Parker said that if elected to the D.C. Council, she would make affordable housing a priorities for Ward 1 residents.

“I want a Ward 1 for all,” Parker said. “We all want the same things such as affordable housing and to stop escalating rents and property taxes. I want to work to expand economic opportunity.”

Reid said affordable housing is due to everyone.

“I believe that safe and affordable housing is a human right,” she said. “Our city can do a lot better when it comes to housing. The D.C. Department of Housing has sent back millions of dollars to the federal government because those dollars weren’t used and we can’t continue to do that.”

Nadeau realizes that affordable housing in the District for African Americans has been an issue for decades. The council member said Blacks in the city have historically faced racial discrimination in housing and have been the subject of redlining, the covert practice that is illegal in which banks refuse to lend money to homeowners who live in African-American neighborhoods.

“The average family income of an African-American family is $30,000 while the White family is $100,000 and Hispanic at $80,000,”Nadeau said. She said, in essence, that everyone needs to have low-income housing including affluent Wards 2 and 3 and “new affordable housing shouldn’t just be in Wards 7 and 8.”

There was a discussion of the District’s comprehensive plan, which is the long term framework for land use. Many District residents feel that the comprehensive plan is a reflection of the desires of developers and not of those who live in neighborhoods.

Parker said the plan needs work.

“The comprehensive plan provides guidance,” she said. “It can be strengthened to provide guidance and to prevent displacement and to provide housing for low and moderate income residents.”

Reid said that the plan needs more metrics and instead of a process in which it is viewed every five years “it needs to be re-visited more often.”