Justice First Stands with Barry Farm Residents As They Fight Displacement

Justice First Testimony

Barry Farm Redevelopment Roundtable

July 12, 2018

The District of Columbia government has tried mightily to re-develop the Barry Farm housing development into a high-end luxury condo and townhome complex for years. In that time, Barry Farm has become synonymous with the deliberate disinvestment in, and destruction of public, housing in the District.

In April of this year, the D.C. Court of Appeals vacated the 2014 ruling by the District of Columbia Zoning Commission allowing a 1,400 unit re-development aimed at higher income residents to proceed.

The court ruled that the Commission failed to:

“fully address all contested issues as required by the zoning and redevelopment regulatory scheme.” While this is legal language the implication is direct, the Zoning Commission failed to follow the legal requirements necessary. Further the court found that they openly misrepresented aspects of the redevelopment project to bring it into compliance despite the reality being at variance with the legal “regulatory scheme.”

For instance as it concerns affordability:

“The Commission erred in concluding that the proposed distribution of affordability levels was ‘generally consistent’ with the Barry Farm Small Area Plan's proposal of one-third market rate units when the majority of units would be market rental or market ownership; one-third is not ‘generally consistent’ with a majority percentage.”

In other words the Commission simply lied that a majority market-rate development was a majority affordable development, despite the actual facts on paper. The court also notes that the Commission again misrepresented the facts in terms of whether or not there would be any displacement. Saying:

“we note a fundamental dispute between the Commission's conclusion that the Applicant will ‘guarantee that [current residents] can return to the PUD Site after redevelopment if they choose to do so.’ Given that 100 of the units are being built off-site and 380 families currently reside on the PUD site, the Applicant cannot reasonably make this promise when only 344 replacement units are being built on-site. The Commission must reconcile this dispute in light of the possibility that more than 344 families wish to return to the PUD site, as they have been promised.”

In other words, again, the Commission said that there would not be displacement when clearly, based on the actual facts on paper, there would be displacement.

Ultimately, the court substantiated what has been alleged by many Barry Farm residents and members of the public: this project will displace existing residents and replace a mainly Black, low-income community with a almost certainly majority non-Black higher income community if the plans promoted by the District government are allowed to move forward.

This comes at a time when:

“The number of apartments renting for less than $800 a month fell from almost 60,000 in 2002 to 33,000 in 2013. (Unless otherwise noted, all rental and income figures are adjusted for inflation to equal 2013 dollars). These findings suggest that there is very little low-cost housing in the private market and that subsidized housing is now virtually the only source of inexpensive apartments. Meanwhile, the number of apartments with higher rents –above $1,400–has skyrocketed.”

The D.C. Council needs to step-in. While this roundtable is a good step, it is absolutely crucial the Council take aggressive action to make sure any redevelopment takes into account the needs and desire of residents, prevents any displacement and promotes truly equitable development -- not District subsidized gentrification.


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