The District of Columbia (D.C.) is both unique and confusing in that it is neither a state nor a territory. Instead of counties, DC has eight wards, with us interns living in the third ward (Woodley Park). America’s founders were concerned that if the United States capital were to be a state, our members of government would be untrustworthy as it’s voting members would easily be able to infiltrate government proceedings, simply due to their proximity to governmental power. Residents in D.C. do not have representation in Congress as well as a say in constitutional amendments. However, the passage of the 23rd amendment in 1961 granted DC residents votes in the electoral college. The district is under federal jurisdiction.
A perfect example of the governance particularities of Washington D.C. are the housing related problems, specifically how the city is dealing with new housing business like Airbnb.
In May, over 250 Washington residents attended a D.C. council hearing to voice their opinions regarding Councilman’s Kenyan McDuffie’s anti-home-sharing bill. Many individuals and families in Washington find it economically advantageous to rent out portions of their home to travelers for short periods of time. Both the tourists and homeowners benefit from these arrangements, and for many homeowners, it is an economic lifeline. With the high costs of living in D.C., these arrangements help to offset the economic burdens of unemployment, medical bills, divorce, and childcare.
Those in favor of home-sharing like to point out the additional benefits it has on the District, such as the more than $14 million dollars in taxes it paid to the District since early 2015. In 2016, Airbnb users spent an estimated $160 million dollars in the DC area, mainly at restaurants cafes, and shops.
Those against home-sharing believe that the increase in home-sharing has negatively affected the supply of affordable housing throughout the DC area. For this reason, the proposed bill limits the number of entire home units and places a cap on the number of allowed nights a home can be “shared” per year. The idea behind this action is to deter homes from being converted from long-term rental housing to only short-term rental housing.
Since my last post, I have learned a great deal, specifically regarding public policy advocacy. When I first began my internship at the National Women’s Health Network, a non-profit Women’s Health advocacy organization, I noticed a great deal of effort was focused on attending rallies and voicing our opinions to other organizations, congress, and the public. I had never attended a rally before, nor had I fully understood how they helped influence political change. Today, I can honestly say that my opinion has changed and I now see how beneficial and influential they can be. As I am writing this, I am literally exhausted from spending four hours standing outside chanting, marching, and waving a sign in the air, protesting to save our healthcare from drastic cuts it currently faces. Coming from various organizations, networks, and backgrounds, we stood together in unison, all five-hundred of us. From hearing the voices of five senators, doctors and nurses, patients, and families, I learned the true impact that broadcasting your voice can make.