Mayor Muriel Bowser
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Re: Stop Barry Farm Displacement
Dear Mayor Bowser:
As you know, the Barry Farm public housing community is on the verge of aggressive displacement. Right now Barry Farm residents are being forcibly relocated from their homes in an attempt to hurriedly empty the property to prepare for demolition.
As the District faces an ongoing affordable housing crisis, with over 8,000 homeless on any given day, over 40,000 on the now closed waiting list for subsidized housing – your administration is continuing a policy of public housing “redevelopment” that is wiping away desperately needed housing. We are asking that you stop and reconsider your approach to public housing redevelopment, recognizing that the permanently affordable, low barrier nature of public housing makes it a precious resource for tens of thousands of District residents who are not served by the private market, and who can’t afford the housing called “affordable” by your administration.
Throughout the city, Black communities have been uprooted by economic and social forces. Over 40,000 Black residents have been forced from the District since 2000. The city must stop the relentless displacement of Black residents from their homes and communities. We cannot allow the continued extinction of our neighborhood history and cultural identity.
The plans currently in place for the redevelopment of Barry Farm would completely wipe out another historic Black community, erasing not just the demolished buildings but the people of the community and their social ties along with it. In the end 444 households, over 1,000 Black residents, are proposed to be moved from the property on which they live – the same property that was settled by freed men and women in the years after the Civil War. The city proposes to replace Barry Farm with a “New Community” that would include 1,400 units of housing, providing homeownership opportunities for hundreds of new residents.
There are serious problems with the plan being pursued by the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) for the redevelopment of Barry Farm. This plan will not only destroy the existing community, but will have a detrimental impact on Ward 8 and contribute to the affordable housing crisis that extends throughout DC.
How “affordable” will the new Barry Farm be? No one knows, because there is NO detailed information about unit affordability in the redevelopment plan and no articulated criteria for who will qualify for units designated as affordable. We do not know how many affordable units will be built, nor to what income levels they will be dedicated.
Who will get to return to the community? Despite the city’s claims, in truth Barry Farm residents are not guaranteed to be able to return to the redeveloped property. Many will be excluded including those deemed not lease compliant due to owing back rent, or those who can’t meet the new requirements imposed by private housing managers. As is common in these redevelopments, new units will not accommodate large families who need multiple bedroom units, which will be eliminated.
How will current residents benefit from this plan? Studies have shown that displacement not only destroys the social networks that low income people depend on to meet basic needs, but also few who are relocated experience real benefits from living in a “mixed income” community, despite popular claims made supporting the de-concentration of poverty theory.
Will this plan worsen DC’s housing and homeless crisis? More than 8,000 people are homeless in the District on any given day, the majority of them families with children. The demolition of Barry Farm will remove 444 low-barrier, truly affordable housing units from the city’s portfolio adding to the crisis. Previous redevelopments have failed to deliver on their promise of rebuilding affordable units, worsening the family housing crisis which currently costs the city $80,000 per night to house families in hotels, and $50,000 per year for residents of the deplorable DC General family shelter.
If this redevelopment moves forward, it must be done in a way that minimizes the displacement of residents from Barry Farm, and that creates opportunities for current residents. It can be done. Here is how:
Redevelop Barry Farm in phases, keeping residents in place
- phased redevelopment was originally promised to the residents in the small area plan
- studies show that below 20% of residents who are displaced from their communities due to redevelopment ever come back
- keeping residents on the site is possible, and it’s the only way to ensure that they are not displaced from the area of the city with which they are familiar, so that they can maintain social networks and protect their right to participate in the new community
Rebuild PUBLIC HOUSING, owned and managed by DCHA, with no net loss of public housing units
- Public Housing is needed in DC. It serves people who are not served by any other form of housing including returning citizens
- Previous experience shows that when new affordable units are privately owned and managed, exclusionary criteria are put in place which prevent residents from reentering
- There are 444 units on the Barry Farm site. The redeveloped property should include no less than 444 units of DCHA owned and managed housing
- There must be no loss of larger units with multiple bedrooms, which are desperately needed by low income families such as those who are currently in shelter
Ownership and business opportunities for residents in the “New Community”
- the redevelopment plan must include opportunities for current residents of public housing to become homeowners and business owners
- this can be achieved through limited –equity cooperative homeownership and space reserved for small business incubation
- public housing redevelopment done right could be a model for community uplift and community development, not a horror story of displacement and gentrification
Repairs and maintenance NOW
- It is illegal and immoral for repairs and maintenance to halt when residents still reside in a property as has happened in Barry Farm, regardless of whether a future redevelopment is planned
- Poor conditions threaten the health of residents especially children and the medically vulnerable such as those with asthma
- Purposeful neglect has created poor conditions which have been used as a justification for demolition. DCHA needs to be held accountable to providing ongoing maintenance and repair to all of its properties – and the DC Council needs to step in and help fund public housing repairs if Federal dollars are not enough to get the job done
Grant amnesty for lease incompliant residents
- A large percentage of current Barry Farm residents are considered “lease incompliant” due to owing DCHA for back rent, fees associated with air conditioning units, or other infractions and are therefore not allowed to return to the new community
- DCHA has for years not enforced its policy of evicting residents who owe back rent. It is not legal for the agency to begin enforcing it now as a means of clearing out Barry Farm
- All DCHA policies must be enforced equally across all DCHA properties, otherwise the agency is violating the Human Rights Act by treating people differently according to which community they live in.
We the undersigned find that there are too many outstanding questions and concerns remaining with the Barry Farm redevelopment, and it must not move forward as planned. We are calling on government officials to assume responsibility for protecting the rights of vulnerable, low income Barry Farm residents immediately!
- Mayor Bowser, you must direct DCHA and the chosen developers to implement redevelopment in place and follow the outline above.
- the DC City Council must provide the detailed and aggressive oversight necessary to ensure DCHA is accountable to their mission — housing residents in need.
Barry Farms Tenants and Allies Association
Paulette Mathews, Barry Farm Resident
Detrice Belt, Barry Farm Resident
Bequita Simms, Barry Farm Resident
Martha Williams, Barry Farm Resident
Larnette Culver, Barry Farm Resident
Emma Owens, Barry Farm Resident
Michelle Hamilton, Barry Farm Resident
Nedra Mitchell, Barry Farm Resident
James C Shaw, Barry Farm Resident
Jewel Sims, Barry Farm Resident
Nicole Odom, Barry Farm Resident
Ismael Vasquez, Sr, Barry Farm Resident
Rev Graylan Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ and Principal, Faith Strategies
Rev Willie Wilson, Union Temple Baptist Church
Rev Dr Raymond Bell, Spirit of Love and Deliverance Baptist Church
Rev Dr Lewis Tait, Jr, The Village
Rev Dr Edwin Jones, Sr, Living Faith Baptist Church
Rev Donald Robinson, First Baptist Church
Rev Ruth Hamilton
Aristotle Theresa, Attorney
Jim McGrath, Chairman, TENAC
Maurice Alexander, DC public housing resident
Black Lives Matter DC
DC for Democracy
DC Jobs With Justice
Fair Budget Coalition
Jews United for Justice
Many Languages One Voice
Showing Up for Racial Justice DC
Washington Peace Center
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