DC Council passes emergency tax lien relief bill after newspaper investigation

Tax lien auction photo courtesy of NBC4On Tuesday afternoon, the DC Council passed 90-day emergency legislation to prevent city residents from losing their homes due to tax lien sales to private investors.  The vote came just days after a Washington Post investigation found some elderly residents lost their properties when they owed just a few hundred dollars in back taxes. FSRN’s Noelle Galos brings us more.

According to a Washington Post report, the city auctioned off 142 tax liens to private investors this year alone, worth a combined half million dollars. Amy Mix, an attorney with AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly, told FSRN that while anyone can be affected, certain populations are especially at risk for losing their homes and equity:

It’s going to be seniors, it’s going to be people with disabilities, maybe people with diminished capacity.”

Mix said that one client in particular caused her office to look into DC’s tax lien sale process, where they found accounting errors that led to foreclosure proceedings:

So this balance that was outstanding that caused the foreclosure suit to be filed against her, was because of an $8.61 balance that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

The emergency legislation will cancel this year’s tax lien sales and establish a review of past sales to compensate those who lost their home for owing less than $2,500 dollars.  A spokesperson for the Mayor said he will sign. Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington, DC.

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DC mayor vetoes living wage ordinance

Today, Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the controversial Large Retailer Accountability Act. The bill would have required retail stores with more than 75,000 square feet and whose parent company makes more than $1 billion annually, to pay workers a minimum wage of $12.50 an hour. FSRN’s Noelle Galos reports.

Wal-Mart workers protesting in North CarolinaCiting the negative impact on DC’s economy, including an alleged 4,000 lost jobs if Wal-Mart carried through on threats to halt construction of three stores, Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the LRAA. Gray said it was “not a true living-wage bill, because it would raise the minimum wage only for a small fraction of the District’s workforce.” But living wage advocates argue large corporations like Wal-Mart are best able to afford the payroll increase. Cindy Murray, a 13-year Wal-Mart employee, spoke out in favor of the proposed law at a town hall last month.

“If you look at the wages today, $12.50 is nothing. They could do that without passing it onto the consumers, and I want them to stop saying they need to pass it onto the consumer. What is wrong with taking it out of their profit? Because they can still make billions, even after paying us a decent wage.”

Next Tuesday, the City Council has scheduled an override vote with the hopes that they can sway one more council member to get to a veto-proof majority. Wal-Mart said today it would resume construction on the three stores only if the bill fails.  Similar measures in Chicago and New York in years past were not able to successfully override Mayoral vetoes. Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington, DC.

Listen or download audio here.