Skip navigation

Pages tagged "gentrification"

Geoff Griffis Attempts to Usurp TOPA at Congress Heights

Two days after Christmas, on December 27, 2017, real estate developer and slumlord Geoff Griffis cut a back door deal with long-time partner and fellow slumlord Sanford Capital in an attempt to acquire their properties at Congress Heights, via an irregular and possibly illegal land transfer. This attempted transfer is a desperate and last minute move by Griffis to circumvent two Court orders that would have otherwise resulted in either a negotiated agreement with Congress Heights tenants to prevent displacement and jump start the building of 200 units of affordable housing, or, a $2 million payment to the court to be used to repair the property as part of the ongoing receivership action.

This shameless attempted transfer of property from Sanford Capital to Geoff Griffis also took place during a 60-day period within which the court ordered Sanford Capital to negotiate exclusively with Congress Heights tenants via their chosen non-profit developer, NHT (National Housing Trust). In response to this latest maneuver by Geoff Griffis, Attorney General Karl Racine filed a contempt motion against Griffis in an effort to expose the underhanded nature of this latest displacement tactic.

To be clear: Griffis's intent is to stop money from being paid to the court by Sanford Capital (his partner), thus preventing desperately needed repairs that would protect the health and wellbeing of Congress Heights tenants. Moreover, the move is designed to prevent tenants from being able to exercise their rights under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), thus depriving them the opportunity to take control of the redevelopment process for themselves.

This usurping of tenant rights in the midst of an affordable housing crisis prevents tenants from doing exactly what TOPA was designed for, namely, giving the tenants a legal tool to prevent their own displacement, and also, to preserve and expand affordable housing in their own community.

Geoff Griffis is willing to subject Congress Heights tenants to continued unsafe, unhealthy conditions in order to push forward a luxury development plan at the expense of community interests. However, Congress Heights tenants are in the midst of fighting back. Their legal team, including Arnold & Porter and the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, is actively working to dispute Griffis's attempts to circumvent TOPA and the receivership.

Justice First and ONE DC are gearing up for mass mobilization in support of affordable housing and against displacement at Congress Heights. Tenants have worked for four years in order to control the land in their community. This is a line in the sand and a battle that cannot be lost.

What can you do?


Click to hear directly from Congress Heights tenant association president Ruth Barnwell about Geoff Griffis's role at Congress Heights and what you can do to help fight back.

 

March Against Slumlord Geoff Griffis

Saturday, February 10th

12 Noon

Gather at Cleveland Park Metro Station

RSVP

Please contact Yasmina at ymrabet@onedconline.org or 202.441.5172 if you would like to be part of the volunteer team organizing this action.

 

Yasmina Mrabet, Housing Organizer


HUD Budget Cuts May Have Major Repercussions on Public Housing in DC

By Kelly Iradukunda, People's Platform & Admin Organizing Apprentice

In the midst of an affordable housing crisis here in the nation's capital, the Trump administration adds its own recipe to the disaster by cutting HUD's budget of $6.8 billion in funding for affordable housing, which will leave the department with an overall budget 14% smaller than last year's. It is estimated that Washington, D.C. will lose over $34 million annually as a result of the proposed HUD budget cuts.Screen_Shot_2017-11-14_at_12.10.35_PM.png

(Source: affordablehousingonline.com)

These HUD budget cuts will pose a particular threat to the District's already underfunded affordable housing system. According to the Washington City Paper, the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA), which is responsible for providing affordable housing to low-and-moderate income D.C residents, already receives only 83 to 86% of what is required to maintain the city's properties. D.C. is already suffering from increased homelessness and this budget, amongst other things, eliminates the U.S Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Screen_Shot_2017-11-14_at_1.02.16_PM.png

Additionally, Trump's cuts will affect the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG), which funds a variety of community development projects. Budget cuts to this program will affect planned capital improvements to public housing properties owned and operated by the local government. Under Trump's budget cuts, DHCD funding will decrease by over 70%. The proposed budget cuts will also affect Section 811, which benefits disabled people. With the proposed budget cuts, DCHA will receive far less funds than it currently receives and needs, putting roughly 20,000 D.C. public housing residents at risk of displacement.

   Screen_Shot_2017-11-14_at_1.02.24_PM.png

This is where ONE DC's campaign, Universal Housing: A Public Option for the Social Good, comes in. In an era of constant threats on the poor, it is imperative we protect the health, safety, and welfare of working-class residents, especially people of color, by preserving, maintaining and expanding public housing.

It is absolutely illogical that there are thousands of homeless families in our nation's capital, while a new soccer stadium almost entirely funded by the District's money is being built. Clearly, we cannot depend on the Federal Government to ensure the safety and needs of the working-class. It is time to take control of our local money and redirect D.C resources towards its residents.


Ward 5 ANCs Issue Resolution Against Mid-City Displacement Plan

ANC 5B has passed a resolution in opposition to Mid-City Financial's luxury redevelopment plan at Brookland Manor. The resolution expresses strong support for the reasonable and viable demands of the Brookland Manor Residents Association, including the Preservation of the 535 units of affordable housing that currently exist on site at the current bedroom sizes and current subsidy levels. This support comes in the wake of continued harassment and intimidation by armed, private security forces at Brookland Manor.

We thank ANC5B commissioners Gayle Hall Carley, Ursula Higgins, Henri Makembe, Rayseen Woodland, and John J. Feely Jr. for their public solidarity with residents at Brookland Manor and their support for development without displacement in Ward 5. The Brookland Manor Residents Association expresses its gratitude to Gayle Hall Carley for taking a leading role in support of equitable development at Brookland Manor. Click here for a PDF version of the letter from ANC 5B.

The Brookland Manor Residents Association is continuing its work to issue requests for resolutions and letters of support from remaining Ward 5 ANCs and other community organizations in the interest of preserving affordable and family housing in Ward 5.


To date, Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie has failed to support the Brookland Manor Residents Association, as outlined in this 7-minute video, and instead has publicly supported Mid-City Financial's redevelopment plan at Brookland Manor. Despite the ongoing affordable housing crisis, McDuffie has previously stated to Brookland Manor tenants that he does not support one-for-one replacement of affordable housing units in the community.

Ways to support the resident-led organizing campaign at Brookland Manor:

1. You can express your continued support for development without displacement at Brookland Manor by forwarding this update to Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie at kmcduffie@dccouncil.us, or by calling him at 202-724-8028. We continue to call on Kenyan McDuffie to immediately end his support for Mid-City's predatory development plan, and to express public support for one-for-one replacement of affordable housing at existing subsidy levels and bedroom sizes at Brookland Manor

2. If you are a Ward 5 resident, contact your local ANCs and Civic Associations

3. Support ONE DC organizing by becoming a member or making a donation


Armed Security Forces Terrorize Brookland Manor Community

Developer Mid-City Financial's hired, armed security forces continue to escalate harassment and intimidation at Brookland Manor in Northeast Washington, DC, where Mid-City is attempting to install a luxury redevelopment plan at the expense of hundreds of working class black families and residents. Last month, on October 14, security guards toting guns disrupted public order when they forced their way into Ms. Ada Harris's apartment, without a warrant, and assaulted her guest Mr. Shawn Robinson, a member of the community who was born and raised at Brookland Manor.

Mr. Robinson was forced outside, handcuffed, and maced twice in the face, in front of MPD officers who were also on the scene. Security guards claimed that Mr. Robinson had a "barring notice" against him. Upon looking at his ID, it became clear that Mr. Robinson did not in fact have any barring notice against him. He was released without explanation from the offending officers.


Mr. Shawn Robinson, during the assault by armed security, in the presence of MPD officers at Brookland Manor.


Brookland Manor tenant whose unit was entered without notice or permission, Ms. Ada Harris, has repeatedly requested a report on the incident from property management. To-date, Ms. Harris has received no report explaining why her privacy was violated, nor has she received any formal, written apology. When interviewed about the incident, Ms. Harris said, "I'm asking them what's going on, me as being the tenant, and they didn't respond to me...I have a hole in my wall, and the lock was broken on my door."

Ms. Harris went on to say, "I feel like our rights have totally been violated. Totally. Because it makes it seem like we're in jail, we're in prison - like we have no rights. And it's sad, because some of the older people come out just to get some fresh air and stuff, and they're saying stuff to them...talking to us like we're animals, like we're dogs or something."

When I interviewed Mr. Robinson about the incident, he explained, "They came into the apartment without knocking, and and they maced me and had me in handcuffs...I couldn't understand what was their protocol...to come into somebody's house and just terrorize the house like they are a swat team."

I asked Mr. Robinson if he had received a formal apology or any kind of paperwork, and he responded, "I didn't get anything. And I asked for the paperwork that day. They acted like it never happened. And then two or three days after it, they put the same guy on the site that maced me. So I didn't understand that whole situation...it feels like a prison...To be humiliated like that, with handcuffs, with mace in my face for over half an hour...it feels like I was being raped, like who I am I?...It's not right for them to dictate who visits tenants...They're telling your own mother, 'get off the front, get off the gate'...that's why I'm coming to you, we need help, we need to explore this situation."


Mr. Shawn Robinson during an interview outside of the building at Brookland Manor, where he was assaulted by armed security.


As a ONE DC housing organizer working with tenants at Brookland Manor, I have been harassed on three different occasions by private security, including two days ago, on Tuesday, November 14th, when I was approached by three armed security guards while talking to tenants and their children on Saratoga avenue. We were told that we are not allowed to "congregate." I explained that we were well within our rights, in accordance with the tenants right to organize law, and additionally, we were not blocking passage on the sidewalk, and are therefore allowed to stand and talk outside.

One of the officers, who had a mask on her face, aggressively demanded to see my ID, and insisted that we were blocking passage, though it was clear to all who were present, that we were not in fact blocking passage. I refused to show my ID, and the masked officer had to be subdued by her fellow officers.

At the time, Michael Meers, executive at Mid-City Financial, happened to be walking in the neighborhood, and I openly brought to his attention the violation of the officers. The aggressive officer walked away, and the two remaining officers approached me and offered an apology and assurance that it would not happen again. Michael Meers stated, "not everyone that's here is peaceful," in an attempt to justify the security's conduct. Just a few minutes later, I witnessed the same three armed officers harassing a woman standing alone at the bus stop, because her arm was on the fence.

Additionally, security officers at Brookland Manor have an SUV that they are jumping out of to enforce the "community rules," which include not leaning on the fence. Their behavior has repeatedly been described by tenants as terrorizing and enforcing prison-like conditions on the community.

We thank our members and supporters for your ongoing solidarity with tenants at Brookland Manor, as they continue to be subjected to shocking assaults by the security arm that does the bidding of Mid-City Financial, relentlessly carrying out a displacement campaign. This displacement campaign is a continuation of what has been previously documented by the Washington Post, and by the Neighborhood Legal Services Program, in order to make way for Mid-City's planned luxury redevelopment.

We ask that the DC community continue to stand with residents and families at Brookland Manor who are fighting displacement, and fighting to live in peace in their community. You can express your continued support by forwarding this update to Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie at kmcduffie@dccouncil.us, or by calling him at 202-724-8028 to demand that he immediately end his support for predatory developer Mid-City Financial, and express public support for the reasonable and viable demands of the Brookland Manor Residents Association:

  1. The Preservation of the 535 units of affordable housing that currently exist on site at the current bedroom sizes and current subsidy levels;
  2. The right of tenants to remain on the property during the process of redevelopment (redevelopment in phases to prevent any displacement) i.e.: build first;
  3. The right for tenants to access employment opportunities through the rebuilding of their own community, which they have a fundamental right to be a part of.

Yasmina Mrabet
Housing Organizer, ONE DC


Historically Black DC Paper Publishes Article Supporting Displacement of Black Families

Historically Black DC paper, the Washington Informer, has published an article that supports a plan for gentrification, and the displacement of hundreds of Black families from Northeast Washington, DC.

The article is co-written by Thaddeus James and Kim Edwards, both of whom reside at Brookland Manor. James and Edwards are actively working with wealthy developer Mid-City Financial to support a redevelopment plan that will require the mass displacement of long-time, working class Black DC residents from our community in the name of profit. If you question the profit motive, look no further than this WAMU interview with daughter of Mid-City CEO Eugene Ford Jr, Maddie Ford, also Mid-City's director of legal affairs, who stated, “The smaller the unit size, the more people you can have there, the more money you can get per unit...The smaller your units are, the more profitable they are.”

In the article, Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie is hailed as a supporter of the community, when in fact, he has demonstrated quite the opposite. McDuffie stands with developer Mid-City Financial, supporting their plan to profit from the displacement of his own constituents. In a recent mock people's trial, McDuffie was found guilty of crimes against our community, the evidence of which is documented in this 7-minute video presentation.

Mid-City's plan to move forward with the reduction of affordable housing units is sanctioned by city officials like McDuffie, and the DC Zoning Commission, in the midst of an affordable housing crisis and skyrocketing rents in the nation's capital.

To facilitate their plan, Mid-City has egregiously engaged in a brutal eviction campaign that is ongoing. Previously, the Washington Post, along with many other media outlets, have exposed Mid-City's ongoing actions. The Neighborhood Legal Services Program, in a letter submitted to the zoning commission, documented Mid-City's ongoing eviction campaign.

Currently, Mid-City is engaging in aggressive attempts to harass and intimidate residents of Brookland Manor. Shockingly, Mid-City is issuing notices of infraction as a basis for evicting tenants for sitting outside in our own community. One resident, Ms. Jennifer Sewell, faces ongoing harassment and intimidation by Mid-City for sitting outside. Here is a photo example from recent infraction she was issued, showing her "violation."


Mid-City is now using these infractions as grounds to attempt to evict Ms. Sewell from her home. We have assisted Ms. Sewell in securing an attorney to represent her in this matter.

Recently, Mid-City issued letters to us that restrict access to community spaces. We understand this move to be a part of their ongoing attempts to interfere with our right to organize. We ask the wider DC community to continue to stand with the families fighting Mid-City's predatory redevelopment plan, by increasing public exposure of, and pressure on, council member Kenyan McDuffie for his role in our suffering.


We, the tenants at Brookland Manor that are fighting to save affordable housing and family housing in our community, will continue to expose Mid-City's attempts to "divide and conquer" our community, and we will continue to fight the attempts by Mid-City to intimidate and harass us.

Minnie Elliott
President, Brookland Manor Residents Association


The Struggle at Dahlgreen Courts

In 2011, Dahlgreen Courts residents exercised their rights under D.C.’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (also known as TOPA) to purchase the two-building, 96 unit historic complex in partnership with a Philadelphia-based non-profit developer, Mission First Housing Group. Built in the 1920s, the complex was in dire need of rehabilitation. After almost six years since the completion of this 20 million-dollar renovation, residents are organizing again to hold the city and Mission First, the non-profit developer who “renovated” the complex, accountable for more than 150 housing code violations the residents are forced to live under.

 dahlgreen_courts.jpg
Tenant Association Vice-President Vaughn Bennett, ONE DC housing organizer
Yasmina Mrabet & Tenant Association President Leon Lightfoot

Officials have tried to use the common practice of bureaucracy to avoid the demands of residents and the Dahlgreen Courts Tenants Association. DCRA relinquished responsibility of the housing violations of paint peeling and cracked wall it cited to the DC Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE). The DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), DC Housing Finance Agency (HFA), and Ward 5 council member, Kenyan McDuffie have opted to protect Mission First from claiming responsibility for the mess it has created, rather than answer to the complaints of the residents they have been placed in office to answer to.

These circumstances are why Bennett says the DCTA, ONE DC, and other committed individuals and organizations are seeking justice by demanding an investigation, potentially filing of criminal charges, and a civil suit against Mission First. Furthermore, Bennett says that residents are actively seeking a law firm to represent them in filing a lawsuit against Mission First Housing Group for fraud and breach of contract.

DCTA and residents like Vaughn Bennett show how vital it is for residents to organize in order to preserve livable conditions and affordable housing in the city. Bennett hopes his work “can inspire others and teach our children how to fight oppression.”

Even though, after significant pressure through a joint tenants action, council member Kenyan McDuffie recently sent a letter to the Dahlgreen Courts Tenants Association in response to their demands, it is yet to be determined whether or not Mission First will truly be held accountable. Additionally, the Dahlgreen Courts Tenants Association is concerned over the redevelopment plans at Brookland Manor, and other gentrification projects in the Rhode Island Avenue area. ONE DC members and supporters across the city won't back down until the tenants at Dahlgreen Courts receive the proper renovations they deserve, and until the various city agencies and the developers they serve are held accountable for their actions against the public.


A D.C. Neighborhood’s Transformation From “Chocolate” to “Cappuccino”

By Claire Cook

To longtime residents of Washington, D.C., the findings presented in Derek Hyra’s Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City—that gentrifying neighborhoods’ racial and economic diversity does not translate into integration—is likely not surprising.

As an organizer with Organizing Neighborhood Equity (ONE DC), a grassroots community organization working for racial and economic equity, and based in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, I’ve witnessed firsthand how a community can be “diverse” in name only.

The Black patrons inside Wanda’s Hair Salon or chatting outside Sammy’s carry-out do not generally have meaningful interactions and relationships with the young white professionals who are lined up around the same block to patronize the Game of Thrones-themed bar. We might all be moving through the same space, but integrated we are not. Hyra’s findings in Cappuccino City present a needed challenge to the neo-liberal rhetoric that has dominated housing policy for the last few decades—that demolishing public and subsidized housing and replacing it with “mixed-income” privatized housing will combat the concentration of poverty through economic and racial integration.

Based on years of ethnographic research, Hyra’s Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City provides an in-depth look at gentrification in the Shaw neighborhood. For those new to either D.C. or to gentrification scholarship, the book should be required reading. The first three chapters lay out the historical and current conditions in D.C. that have contributed to the non-stop growth we see today. He explores the rise and fall of D.C.’s Black political machine, exposing the differences between the District’s Black mayors, their relationships with the Black community, and how they’ve represented (or more often not represented) the working-class community’s interests.

Hyra also presents the complexity of the District’s relationship to the federal government and how our lack of home rule and representation has left us to the whims of interfering members of Congress. Hyra documents the transition of Shaw from a “dark ghetto,” an inner-city, poor Black community marked by disinvestment, to a “gilded ghetto,” a transformed urban space where upscale restaurants, luxury apartment buildings, and trendy bars proliferate through gentrification and decades of pro-development urban policy.

Readers might find Hyra’s concept of “living the wire” controversial. A nod to HBO’s The Wire, a series set in impoverished, high-crime Black neighborhoods in Baltimore, Hyra finds through his interviews and observations that many white newcomers to Shaw were drawn to the neighborhood because of “Black branding” and its notorious past of prostitution, open-air drug markets, and drive-by shootings.

Wait a minute. Is Hyra really saying white people came to Shaw because they wanted to live in a violent neighborhood? No, of course not. But the motivations behind wealthier, whiter people fleeing the stagnant, “soulless” suburbs in a “return to the city” movement cannot be ignored.

Despite devaluing Black lives, white supremacy has always found a way to capitalize on Black culture. It is this attraction to living in a historically Black neighborhood—to “Black cool,” that has drawn residents to Shaw. But although new residents may be consuming Black cool at places like Busboys & Poets, a hip, politically progressive restaurant-cafe on 14th St., for the most part, Hyra finds, newcomers ignore the existence and struggle of their actual poor and working-class Black neighbors.

Click here to continue reading the review on Shelterforce.com


Tenant-Led Accountability Action at the Wilson Building

mcduffie.jpg

Tenants from Brookland Manor, Dahlgreen Courts and Congress Heights came together on Tuesday, June 20th for an action at City Hall where they got Ward 5 and Ward 8 council members Kenyan McDuffie and Trayon White on the public record with regard to underhanded displacement tactics and slum conditions tenants face at the hands of wealthy developers.

  tenant_action.jpg
   tenants1.jpg

Click here to view a video of the tenant association presidents from each property giving their summary of the action and what it means moving forward.


Making the Just City Campaign Welcomes Two Apprentice Organizers

raheem_serita.JPG

Serita El Amin is the granddaughter of Samuel B. Ethridge, a former National Education Association official who worked for racial integration of state teacher organizations during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. In 1968, he was named head of the NEA’s newly created center for Human Rights, which developed leadership programs.
So further in her life, Serita El Amin was inspired to follow her grandparents’ dreams and legacy and wanted to represent in changing relationships between organizations. She has struggled in many areas of separation and displacement, and truly believes in human rights and remembering our ancestors and what they fought for. Serita lives in Washington, D.C., in the NE Brookland Manor apartments, where tenants are now trying to protect their rights and preserve affordable housing. She has been there for 18 years -- has one biological child and raised 16 children. Serita loves life and believes we should live life to the fullest with equal shares. She happily joined ONE DC's Making the Just City Project in 2017 to move forward to success and equal rights.

Raheem Anthon is a native of Washington D.C. His childhood consisted of relocating many times due to systemic circumstances of a low-income, single-parent household. He grew up in Congress Heights, Baltimore, and Charlotte, N.C. where he witnessed and experienced the physiological effects that struggle can take hold on people, especially his family. This led him to try to understand the reasons why this takes place in society. When life led him back to D.C., he was stunned to see the effects of gentrification and displacement take place where he considered home. Places seemed familiar, but faces were complete strangers. This, along with the election of 2016, compelled him to get politically involved, begin reading revolutionary literature, and led him to local organizations, such as ONE DC. Being a member of ONE DC has been integral in reconnecting him back to the DC community and he is currently involved in the Making the Just City ​campaign. This campaign is an ethnographic study of late and new gentrification stages and its adverse effects in the Orange County, NJ and Shaw area. Raheem hopes to continue working with the people in order to restore our roots, not just with revolutionary ideology, but to bring people​ to revolutionary ideology- a praxis for the people. He believes this will truly ​create social change by having the people fight for what is theirs and build a new society together.


Making the Just City Presents at DC Ideas Fest

dc_ideas_fest.jpg

Derek Hyra (associate professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University and author of Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City) and Dominic Moulden (ONE DC Resource Organizer) speaking at DC Ideas Fest about the innovative Making the Just City project that brings together researchers and community organizers in neighborhoods facing displacement in DC to understand and produce community-level responses, such as affordable housing and social capital, to reduce health disparities.
Click here to view presentation slides