D.C. Tenants Face Displacement as Catholic Church Puts Rent Control Buildings Up for Sale

636 Girard St. N.E., 628 Girard St. N.E., 1265 Raum St. N.E, and 1364 Bryant St. N.E. in the Rhode Island Avenue neighborhood of Washington, D.C., are 4-unit rent controlled buildings owned by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, home to tenants now facing displacement.

The four buildings are home to multinational working class residents and families, all of whom are at imminent risk of displacement by the Catholic Church decision to sell the buildings. The buildings' sale could result in the loss of rent control protections and a subsequent rise in housing costs such that tenants would face imminent displacement from the District.

After reaching out privately to the Catholic Church to no avail, and in the face of expired and upcoming TOPA (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act) deadlines, tenants in the four buildings have banded together, organizing to protect their homes and families. As we work with tenants on this organizing campaign, Justice First and LinkUp call for all supporters, including individuals and organizations, to circulate and sign on to a public letter to the Catholic Church.

Tenants living in rent controlled buildings on Girard St. N.E., Raum St. N.E., and Bryant St. N.E. owned by the Catholic Church are at risk of losing protections as the Church puts their buildings up for sale in the rapidly gentrifying Rhode Island Avenue neighborhood.

Through organizing efforts, residents seek protection from displacement and homelessness, and in their letter, reference Catholic Church teachings and statements, including:

Pope Francis said, at his speech in Washington, D.C. at St. Patrick’s on September 24, 2015, “We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.” As early as March 24, 1988, a statement issued by the Administrative Board of the U.S. Catholic Conference, states:

The Church has traditionally viewed housing, not as a commodity, but as a basic human right. … As Pope John Paul II said … ‘A house is much more than a roof over one’s head.’ It is ‘a place where a person creates and lives out his or her life.’ The right to housing is a consistent theme in our teaching and is found in the Church’s Charter of the Rights of the Family. We believe society has the responsibility to protect these rights, and the denial of housing to so many constitutes a terrible injustice."

Across Ward 5, and around Washington, D.C. tenants are fighting for justice from slum conditions and displacement policies, which city politicians, including local council members and Mayor Muriel Bowser routinely facilitate. For example, at Brookland Manor, hundreds of families face displacement as Mid-City attempts to move forward with a Zoning Commission-approved plan to eliminate affordability in the community in the midst of an ongoing affordable housing crisis. At Dahlgreen Courts, tenants have filed a $5 million complaint against nonprofit developer Mission First, the recipient of millions of dollars in funding from the city, for continually exposing residents and their families to to deadly toxins, including lead and mold. At Congress Heights, tenants continue to defend their community even as the corrupt dealings of politicians and slumlords are routinely exposed. At Montana Terrace, tenants suffer a wide range of health symptoms as they are exposed to various types of toxic mold.

As the tenants of 636 Girard St. N.E., 628 Girard St. N.E., 1265 Raum St. N.E, and 1364 Bryant St. N.E. band together to protect their neighborhood and community from gentrification, we must all band together to protect the interests of working people from the planned affordable housing crisis, and organize for a total solution to this crisis, which afflicts so many across the city, country, and around the world.

Click here to sign on to the public letter to the Catholic Church, a faith institution that claims to support housing as a human right. Tell them they must adhere to those values in the interest of protecting the human rights of District residents and all people.

Donate to Justice First to support our work with tenants at 636 Girard St. N.E., 628 Girard St. N.E., 1265 Raum St. N.E. and 1364 Bryant St. N.E. fighting to protect homes and families against displacement and gentrification.

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