Mid-City Financial has faced an uphill battle since it unveiled plans two years ago to renovate the 1940-era Brookland Manor Apartments. Surviving lawsuits, protests and complaints of super aggressive eviction tactics, the renovation of the apartments is finally moving forward with Stage One of the Rhode Island Avenue (RIA) Project. Despite approval to move forward, litigation still looms over Brookland Manor.
The DC Voice has had the opportunity to speak to both parties. This is the first of a four-part story on the RIA project. It’s up to the Ward 5 residents to gather the facts and look at both sides of this important issue. It starts with the application to the DC Zoning Commission.
The District of Columbia Zoning Commission Order No. 14-18A ruled that Stage One of the RIA project can proceed. Stage One represents the first phase of a multi-phased project to replace the nearly 400 units with approximately 1,760 residential units on the existing property. Mid-City has proposed to reserve 22 percent of the units for affordable housing to accommodate the existing residents. Stage One starts the process with the construction of 131 mixed-income and 200 senior citizens units.
The ruling comes despite opposition raised by the Justice First Association, representing the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association. The Association raised opposition to the overall number of affordable units being set aside, the alleged break-up of families with senior residents by moving them into senior-only housing and improperly evicting residents to reduce the number of units they would have to set aside as affordable housing. The biggest concern centered on the 4 and 5-bedroom units that are being eliminated altogether.
The availability of affordable housing is a controversial subject in the District. The District’s Inclusionary Zoning Laws require developers to reserve a number of units for households earning equal to or less than eighty percent (80%) of the Median Family Income (MFI). Rental inclusionary units must be reserved for households earning equal to or less than sixty percent (60%) of the MFI. It also sets aside 8-10 percent of the floor space as affordable housing.
“We’ve had a number of developers come before our Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and we almost invariably tell them you have to do better than 10 percent,” said Ward 5E Advisory Neighborhood Council Chair, Bradley Thomas. “The last number I’ve seen from the Department of Labor and Statistics for MFI for a family of four is $110,000. So, for a family of four, you are talking about $88,000 a year. We know a lot of areas in our communities, in our city and particularly in Ward 5 where a lot of our families of 4 are not making $88,000 a year.”
On April 16, 2018, the Association filed a Motion for Reconsideration with the Zoning Commission to modify Stage One. It also asks the Commission to reconsider whether the proposals in Stage Two will meet Housing Authority regulations. The Motion leans on a Memorandum Opinion filed on February 12, 2018, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The Memorandum Opinion asserts that the RIA project is discriminating against a class of residents requiring large bedrooms. This Memorandum allows a class action suit to move forward with the RIA project.
Mid-City responded to the Motion on April 23, 2018. The response states that the Associations’ motion is not based on new evidence or evidence that was not reasonable at the time the commission made its initial ruling. It goes on to state that the establishment of a class action suit isn’t relevant to the Commission’s decision and asks that the motion be denied.
With demolition set to start any day for Stage One of the RIA project the cloud of litigation still looms. The Motion for Reconsideration and corresponding response are still pending as is the class action suit. At what point will the litigation end and construction begin is anyone’s guess. What is clear is that the looming litigation keeps the future of the families in Brookland Manor in question.
- Litigation Looms Over Brookland Manor Part 2 focuses on the Mid-City Financial perspective.