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DC Mayor Muriel Bowser releases plan to split DCRA

DC Council Chair Mendelson is concerned the new Department of Buildings won't have enough compliance inspectors.

WASHINGTON — Collapsed buildings, long waits for permits, and blighted buildings. That’s what D.C.’s Councilmembers say is the legacy of the District’s troubled Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, also known as the DCRA.

For three years, WUSA9 investigated problems residents had with the DCRA. Following our reporting, in 2020, the DC Council made a law forcing Mayor Muriel Bowser to split up the DCRA. Friday, we finally got her detailed plan to do just that.

The DCRA is responsible to inspect D.C.’s buildings for safety. A three-year-long investigation by WUSA9’s Delia Goncalves exposed flaws in its inspections and permitting.

This past Tuesday, we exposed how D.C. Fire Marshals uncovered illegal and potentially dangerous housing renovations missed by DCRA inspectors.

RELATED: DC Fire marshals catch illegal construction DCRA is missing

In Wednesday's budget meetings, it’s become a source of some tension between the Mayor and DC Council, including an exchange between Council Chair Phil Mendelson and Mayor Muriel Bowser:

"Do you want to say anything more about that?" Mendelson asked Bowser about her plan to split DCRA. There was laughter in the hearing room before Bowser responded, "we’re really looking forward to working with you Mr. Chairman."

Credit: Becca Knier
Mayor Muriel Bowser (D-DC) presents her 2023 budget

DCRA will be split in two. DLCP is the new Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection. DOB is the new Department of Buildings, now responsible for building inspections.

"We’re going to be hiring," Bowser told WUSA9. "This is part of the reason I don’t love the idea because we have to create a whole new bureaucracy. It’s also presented some strain on the existing bureaucracy. The sooner we have it settled, I think the better it would be for leadership."

While DC Council Chair Mendelson’s office is still crunching the numbers – their analysis shows that there could be substantial cuts in permitting, housing rehabilitation, and building inspection inspectors, but a gain in vacant building inspectors.

"What I’m seeing in the budget is positive when it comes to the new Department of Buildings. However, I do think there’s going to be some issues whether there are enough inspectors, particularly in regard to construction compliance," Mendelson told WUSA9 Friday afternoon.

Credit: Becca Knier
DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson shows WUSA9's Nathan Baca the latest DCRA split plans.

RELATED: DC mayor plans new high school, new jail and new jobs with budget windfall

If you are looking to renovate your D.C. home soon, there may be some good news. The Mayor’s budget plans to add new “live video support” with permitting agents. One of the most common complaints we’ve heard from viewers is the several months it can take people to get a permit to do even simple home renovation projects.

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