On Monday, May 22, 2017 the DC Zoning Commission will publicly announce a decision regarding the next phase of Mid-City’s development at Brookland Manor. The development as proposed will reduce the availability of affordable housing, and further displace families who are part of the fabric of the DC community.
Brookland Manor is one of the few holdouts in booming Washington, DC where working class families can afford to live in appropriately sized apartments. A 535 apartment unit complex that includes units of 3, 4 and 5 bedrooms, Brookland Manor sits on 22 acres of land about 1 mile from the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. Currently, all 535 of those units are affordable either through a Section 8 site-based contract or Housing Choice Vouchers, or because the market rent at these older buildings in this not-yet-fully-gentrified part of the District is still accessible to some families who have been left out by the majority of recent housing development. Mid-City proposes building 1,750 units of luxury housing at Brookland Manor, and eliminating all 4 and 5 bedroom units, and most 3 bedroom units. However, even while it triples density, the plan proposes to reduce the overall number of affordable units from 535 to 373. This means an overall loss of desperately needed affordable family-sized units in the midst the District’s family homelessness and affordable housing crises.
Throughout this process, Mid-City Financial has used underhanded tactics to clear the property of families ahead of the proposed redevelopment, reducing the number of families that would need to be rehoused upon completion of the redevelopment. A Washington Post article published in August 2016 details some of the tactics used.
We are asking our community to come out in force to stand against displacement, and stand in solidarity with the tenants of Brookland Manor. Brookland Manor represents a line in the sand. It is vital that these plans not be voted on or discussed in the dark, and that our institutions and our elected officials are held accountable for their actions regarding redevelopment proposals in the District moving forward. DC Government and developers cannot continue to eliminate affordability. DC Government and developers cannot continue to eliminate family sized units. DC Government and developers cannot continue to demolish existing communities and displace working class residents of color who live in those communities.
The struggle at Brookland Manor is tenant-led, and the Legal Clinic is in solidarity with the tenants, serving as legal representation for the Brookland Manor Tenant Association. This work happens in close cooperation with organizers with ONE DC, who organize the Brookland Manor tenants and the actions related to this struggle.
The tenants demand that any redevelopment include the following:
1. The Preservation of 535 units of affordable housing at the current bedroom sizes and current subsidy levels
2. That the tenants remain on the property during the process of redevelopment (redevelopment in phases to prevent any displacement) i.e.; “build first.”
3. That the tenants, who are a fundamental part of this community, be able to participate economically in this process by accessing employment opportunities through the rebuilding of Brookland Manor.
Right now, the fight for the retention of affordable housing at the existing bedroom sizes is playing out before the DC Zoning Commission. Click here to read Legal Clinic attorney Will Merrifield’s opening statement before the zoning commission, opposing the redevelopment plan at the 2nd stage hearing on February 23, 2016. ONE DC organized a rally just outside the zoning commission right before that hearing, and both the rally and the hearing saw incredible turnout (the overflow room was standing room only!). So many people testified in opposition to the redevelopment that a second hearing date was set for March 16th, at which the commission heard even more testimony in opposition. ONE DC’s blog includes a write-up of these experiences thus far, and contains information about upcoming rallies.
The Brookland Manor tenants, their organizing and legal teams, and many community members in support of the tenants were most recently at the zoning commission to attend a public meeting on April 24th. At that meeting, the zoning commissioners asked Mid-City to provide additional information illustrating how their plan, as currently proposed, will not result in displacement of Brookland Manor families. It is our view that the applicant will not be able to provide those answers, because, on its face, the redevelopment proposal excludes families and eliminates overall affordability. Here’s Will debriefing with the tenants after the April 24th meeting:
Be part of the community that stands in solidarity with Brookland Manor tenants on May 22. We’ll see you there.