VOICES: Those most impacted must be included in decision-making around housing

Editor’s Note: The City of Dayton declined the opportunity to provide a response to today’s column.

The Dayton Tenant Union (DTU) represents the voices and needs of tenants. The DTU successfully convinced the City of Dayton to add housing to Issue 6. If passed by the voters in March, Issue 6 alongside other dollars will designate $1.1 million per year over 8 years to housing initiatives. The City established a housing steering committee that will guide decisions around housing and housing funding for Dayton. The DTU has repeatedly requested that the City appoint at least one of its members to the committee.

All Commissioners have agreed that a tenant representative should be on the committee. To date, the City Manager, an unelected employee, has thwarted these elected officials’ requests in very troubling ways.

First, the City Manager used racialized language by stating that she would not appoint “a token person” in response to the Commission’s request. The City Manager’s use of the term “token” feeds into unhealthy stereotypes, specifically racially motivated stereotypes. Second, the City Manager’s response that the failure to add a tenant representative was an “oversight” is blatantly untrue. In an email discussing adding a tenant representative to the steering committee, it indicated that the City Manager intentionally did not want to include a tenant representative, as that would not fit the “tone/mission” of the steering committee and instead wanted a “housing professional.”

The City Manager’s explanation is embedded in discriminatory language birthed from systemic racism. These discriminatory patterns identify groups of people (tenants) as unprofessional, and unqualified to contribute to the policies and decisions that will impact them the most. This stance is insulting to more than half of Dayton’s resident population who are predominantly renters.

To effectively address Dayton’s housing crisis, those most impacted must be included in the decision-making around housing. A representative from the DTU would fill this glaring gap on the committee. Predatory landlords defraud, exploit, and place in danger low-income tenants. Dayton’s lack of tenant protection and enforcement allows these landlords to thrive and profit off the backs of Dayton’s most vulnerable.

One DTU member’s child became ill because of mold that her landlord refused to address. Focused on protecting her child, she left the home. The landlord is still renting this home. The City has no measures in place to prevent this cycle.

Even when the court system is used, the City fails to protect tenants. Another DTU member with the assistance of an attorney was awarded judgments and orders addressing the landlord’s illegal acts. However, the City pushed back on the court’s order for inspection. When the City conducted an inspection and issued notices of violations, the landlord ignored it and re-rented it to an unsuspecting family. The City has done nothing in response.

An elderly DTU member made a complaint during a commission meeting when the City’s housing inspection department failed to help get her landlord to fix her heat. The Mayor stated he would look into the situation. To date, she is still living without heat.

The community and DTU respectfully request that the Housing Steering Committee pause further meetings and activities until tenants are included. The community expects the City to do what’s right by giving tenant representatives a decision-making role in structuring housing priorities. Dayton residents deserve to be involved in decisions that impact them.

DTU received the following questions from the community:

1. When will the City Manager provide a substantive update on the appointment of tenant(s) to the committee?

2. How will housing dollars allocated under Issue 6 be used?

3. What is the “tone and mission” of the housing steering committee?

Viridis Green and Alice Wood are both members of the Dayton Tenant Union. The Dayton Tenant Union is formed by Dayton residents who have come together to protect tenants rights; they can be reached at daytontenantunion@gmail.com.