Since the beginning of Justice First's work with tenants at Congress Heights almost six years ago, politically connected slumlord Geoff Griffis has been involved in attempts to facilitate the displacement of residents in order to make way for his vision of an unaffordable, luxury redevelopment.
The organizing campaign, in conjunction with ongoing legal battles has exposed the blatant corruption and organization of housing policies favoring the profit-driven interests of developers, over the human needs of working class D.C. residents.
Our most recent reports on Congress Heights chronicle some of the disturbing connections between local officials that hold the highest positions in government, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, and developers that rely on political favors and taxpayer resources to do their business. Last month, we reported on a major victory in the receivership case for Congress Heights, in which D.C. Superior Court Judge John M. Mott ordered Geoff Griffis's company CityPartners to pay almost $900,000 to rehabilitate the Congress Heights property.
This month, Geoff Griffis, known throughout the District for his political connections and slumlord activities, failed to make the payment due on August 13, 2018, thereby violating a court order. Attorney General Karl A. Racine subsequently filed a motion for contempt.
Not only did Griffis violate a court order, but additionally, in yet another unabashed, final ditch attempt to displace tenants, he contacted the receiver stating that he could pay $52,000 of the almost $900,000 to "relocate" the tenants. Throughout the process, tenants have been fighting displacement from the property, and the idea of relocating without contractual assurances that they will return to a community that accommodates affordable housing needs has been previously rejected. Geoff Griffis's excuses for his ongoing behavior are well summarized in a DC Line article, Unethical developers in DC.
Meanwhile, Congress Heights attorney Will Merrifield of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless (WLCH), along with Arnold & Porter will represent tenants at an initial hearing scheduled for August 31, as tenants continue to move forward with an additional lawsuit against Sanford Capital and City Partners for violating TOPA (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act) rights through what amounted to an illegal sale of the Congress Heights properties late last year.
Tenants and their legal and organizing teams have every intention of continuing to hold slumlords and their political functionaries accountable for collaborating on development deals that seek to displace working class Black residents from the District, and gentrify the Congress Heights community.
Further updates on Congress Heights will be released in the coming days.