Legal loopholes threaten the rights of tenants in the District

Washington City Paper reveals how loopholes and legal jargon in laws designed to protect residents have continuously threatened the rights of tenants in the District. One law, in particular, is often scrutinized to the benefit of property owners, causing some to fear that tenant rights are slowly crumbling. (WCP, 2/12)

The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, passed in 1980, is at the heart of the District’s efforts to protect tenants from landlords who seek to displace them. The essence of the law is simple: Before an owner sells a building, she or he must give the tenants a chance to buy it themselves. The reality is much more complex. Basic questions of definition—what’s a sale? what’s a fair price?—have taken TOPA (as it’s known) to the courts and back so many times that 35 years after the law’s enactment, still no one really knows what it means.


TOPA isn’t the only area where the city’s well-intentioned housing laws have failed to prevent tenant displacement and rising rents. The core mechanism for fighting these trends is the city’s rent-control law. In theory, it should limit rent increases in apartment buildings constructed before 1975, which comprise the majority of D.C.’s rental housing stock. In practice, due to exceptions built into the law, landlords have capitalized on rising demand by pushing tenants out via lucrative buyouts and replacing them with much higher-paying renters, or by petitioning the city for rent hikes far beyond the usual limits.

But TOPA is the statute whose ambiguities are most routinely plumbed by lawyers, challenged by tenants, and decided by the courts.

– On their blog, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy explains why the national Get on the Map campaign, in which WRAG is participating, is critically important for the social sector, and especially so for funders who invest with an equity lens. (NCRP, 2/12)

Related: WRAG members looking for more information on how to participate in Get on the Map to contribute to WRAG’s own Foundation Maps platform can join the first of three “how to” webinars today at 2pm.

Opinion: In an effort to bring greater accessibility and an abundance of opportunities to people around the world, a group of foundations including Open Society, are pledging to become key players in the fight over net neutrality. Here’s why they think more philanthropists should get on board. (Chronicle, 2/11)

Capital One has selected two nonprofits in the District to receive grants as part of their dFund initiative that helps nonprofits encourage clients to become successful in the digital economy (WBJ, 2/12):

Per Scholas will receive $25,000 to develop a training program to help low-to-moderate income adults launch and navigate cybersecurity careers. The Mentoring Center is getting a $75,000 to launch a D.C. chapter of BlackGirlsCode, a non-profit organization focused on introducing programming and technology to a new generation.

– Clean Decisions, a new D.C.-based business co-owned by The Advisory Board Company‘s Graham McLaughlin, is helping returning citizens transition from prison to outside life by connecting them with recurring jobs cleaning kitchens at area businesses. (WCP, 2/10)

NONPROFITSThe World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Not-For-Profit (Fast Company, 2/2015)

FOOD | In the ever-shifting landscape of food retail, a recent Washington Post blog reports that some of our country’s largest food makers are selling less packaged, processed foods in grocery stores. They’re selling more of them to low-income consumers in dollar and discount stores at higher per unit prices. At the same time, DC Central Kitchen offers a guide to improving healthy food offerings at corner stores based on their success in the District. (WaPo, 2/7 and DCCK, 2/11)

ARTS | Check out Washington City Paper‘s 2015 Spring Arts Guide that includes recommendations for museums, theater and much more here. (WCP, 2/2015)

TRANSIT | Maryland is #4 in the nation in transit ridership (GGW, 2/11)

EVENTS | Grants Managers Network is celebrating their 10th Annual Conference March 16-18 in National Harbor, MD. More than 60 sessions, plus expanded networking time, are on the agenda, which includes learning tracks on effective practices, outcomes/evaluation, compliance, and data intelligence, among others. To learn more and to register before the early bird rate ends, click here!

This Valentine’s Day, you may just have to save up to buy a box of chocolates.

– Ciara