Mid-City Financial, the developer that owns the Brookland Manor property in Northeast Washington, D.C. has hired RCLCO Real Estate Advisors, a consulting company that is becoming the "go-to" for developers looking to justify the tearing down of affordable housing in order to build luxury apartments and condos. RCLCO has written an outrageous report, submitted to the D.C. Zoning Commission, claiming that Mid-City will not be gentrifying if it goes through with its redevelopment plan at Brookland Manor, because gentrification in Ward 5 is "an established trend." On its face, this is a preposterous claim.
While the report in its entirety is nonsensical, there are two particularly egregious quotes that are telling of Mid-City's intentions at Brookland Manor in particular, and in Ward 5 in general:
1. RCLCO used a quote in their report from a Slate article to justify Mid-City's redevelopment plan for Brookland Manor. The quote reads: "When you have enough construction, you get filtering rather than gentrification. Lower-income people move into dwellings that used to house rich people but that aren't shiny and new any more and don't have the most up-to-date fashions. When you don't have enough construction, you get rich people moving into poor people's houses and installing granite countertops." This is a shocking statement as we witness brand new luxury developments in D.C. pushing working class Black people into sub-prime markets run by slumlords, like we've seen with Sanford Capital at properties like Congress Heights.
2. RCLCO used a second quote in their report by "liberal economist" Paul Krugman to justify Mid-City's redevelopment plan for Brookland Manor. The quote reads: "Rising demand for urban living by the elite could be met largely by increasing supply. There's still room to build, even in New York, especially upward. Yet while there is something of a building boom in the city, it's far smaller than the soaring prices warrant, mainly because land use restrictions are in the way." This shocking quote very clearly states who Mid-City is building for. They boldly and blatantly state that the supply of housing they offer is to meet the demand for "urban living by the elite."
Consulting companies like RCLCO are acting as facilitators of predatory redevelopments that seek to profit at the expense of working class communities of color.
Mid-City Financial plans to eliminate all 4 and 5 bedroom units, and most 3 bedroom units,
effectively displacing hundreds of working class black families from Brookland Manor.
Recently, Mid-City has pushed the narrative through media outlets that if they were able to build higher density at Brookland Manor, there would have been an appropriate amount of affordable housing. However, even in Mid-City's original plans which would have quadrupled density (as opposed to current plans which propose to triple density), they never planned to replace the 535 units of affordable housing currently on the property, and they always planned to eliminate family-sized units.
Segregation and inequality are the obvious manifestations of arguments like the recent one pushed by the Editorial Board at the Washington Post. Privately-owned land and private money does not abdicate a private company’s responsibility to the public. Previous investigative reports by the Washington Post expose public problems perpetuated by Mid-City Financial, including the loss of family housing at Brookland Manor. Mid-City's eviction campaign has also been documented by groups like the Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP). At ONE DC, we believe we have a communal responsibility to ensure equitable development without displacement. Additionally, there are rules in place that require plans like those of private company Mid-City at Brookland Manor to gain PUD approval through the government zoning process. This process is designed to ensure that plans like Mid-City’s protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Clearly, a plan that eliminates affordable housing while tripling density on the 20 acre site, and one that eliminates family housing in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, does not promote the health, safety, and welfare of the community, and therefore should not be approved by the D.C. Zoning Commission. This is the legal standard that Mid-City must be judged by.
Tenants at Brookland Manor propose that Mid-City be allowed to redevelop and triple density only if they include the 535 units of affordable housing that currently exist on site at their existing subsidy levels and bedroom sizes. Furthermore, tenants ask for the right to access employment opportunities through the rebuilding of their own community, which they have a fundamental right to be a part of. Working class residents of color who are affected by the affordable housing crisis have a right to seek to preserve affordable housing at every turn, whether it be through private redevelopment plans that require zoning approval, or through the preservation and expansion of high quality, high functioning public housing. The government to this point has completely failed in that respect.
The Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association has repeatedly offered to partner with Mid-City and with Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie to access money through the Housing Production Trust Fund in order to finance a true one-for-one replacement of existing affordable units at the redeveloped property. To this point, neither Mid-City nor Kenyan McDuffie has taken the Residents Association up on their offer to work together to preserve the existing affordable housing at Brookland Manor as a part of redevelopment plans moving forward. What is happening at Brookland Manor illustrates why Washington, D.C. is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that is only getting worse. Sadly, city government officials like Kenyan McDuffie continue to refuse to act in the interests of their constituents, and instead work to increase the profit margins of private companies like Mid-City.
Brookland Manor tenants continue to lead a fight to preserve affordable, family-accessible units at Brookland Manor, and it is critical that we continue to keep up widespread public pressure on a system that puts the interests of profiteers before those of the people, and one that continues to develop by way of displacement. We expect the D.C. Zoning Commission to finally make a decision on Monday, May 22, as to whether Mid-City can move forward with its planned displacement of working class Black residents from Brookland Manor to make way for a redevelopment that will build over 1,750 luxury apartments. On that day, once again, we will come out in big numbers to demonstrate our continued solidarity with tenant-led struggles to save affordable housing and family housing in the District of Columbia, and to demonstrate our continued commitment to working class black communities under attack by private developers and city officials who do their bidding.
Please join us on May 22nd. We will rally outside of 441 4th St NW at 5:00PM, and then move into the building starting at 6:00PM to pack the zoning hearing, which will begin at 6:30PM.
RSVP here: Final Action Rally! Support Brookland Manor!