“What we are fighting for is our right to live in safe and affordable housing.”
-Ruth Barnwell, President, Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition
The Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition is the tenant association consisting of the residents of the buildings above the Congress Heights Metro Station in Southeast Washington, DC (1309, 1331 and 1333 Alabama Avenue SE Washington, DC, as well as 3210 13th Street SE Washington DC). The tenants have been living with conditions that threaten their health and safety as a result of the pattern of neglect that took hold as soon as Geoff Griffis (of CityPartners), and Sanford Capital, began working toward the redevelopment of the properties into luxury apartments and retail.
Over the past several years, as they personally endured abhorrent conditions and treatment, the tenants’ steadfastness unmasked a horrific pattern at Sanford buildings and impacted the conversation around affordable housing in the District. DC residents who are recipients of housing subsidies often struggle to find reputable landlords who will rent to them, and many have no choice but to live in Sanford Capital buildings. This means that Sanford Capital profits handsomely from taxpayer-funded subsidies and the affordable housing crisis.
The tenants’ struggle has led to public outcry, lawsuits filed by the Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, horror expressed by city officials at speeches, public hearings, and roundtables, and extensive media coverage. The Congress Heights properties have been subject to a receivership since September 2017, and Sanford Capital was ordered to ‘negotiate exclusively’ with the tenants regarding the terms of sale for a period of 60 days, starting on November 9, 2017. On December 27, 2017, Sanford Capital quietly transferred the properties above the Congress Heights Metro station to its own development partner for the proposed Congress Heights project: Geoff Griffis/CityPartners. Griffis is now attempting to move forward the luxury redevelopment that has already caused great harm, and doesn’t reflect the wishes or participation of the residents who currently live on that land.
The Congress Heights Tenants’ Goal: Inclusive and equitable development at Congress Heights
The Coalition seeks to exercise rights under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, and partner with its chosen non-profit developer, National Housing Trust-Enterprise Preservation Corp., in order to redevelop this land in line with the vision and goals of the people who live there, and build nearly 200 truly affordable units above the Congress Heights Metro station.
The key to any redevelopment at the site is an abandoned building that is currently under the control of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development. We are in solidarity with Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition as they ask Mayor Bowser and the District of Columbia government to work with the community by transferring 3200 13th Street SE to the Coalition and its representatives in order to achieve a win in the struggle against displacement and for safe, dignified, affordable housing.