WASHINGTON, DC- As plans move forward to redevelop Brookland Manor, a group of long-standing resident families, along with community-based organization ONE DC, have filed a class action lawsuit today challenging the discriminatory redevelopment by developer Mid-City Financial Corporation and its affiliates.
If allowed to go forward as planned, the redevelopment would eliminate many apartments with three bedrooms and all apartments of more than three bedrooms, and displace up to one hundred and fifty families. Defendant Mid-City Financial Corporation has “justified” this discrimination on the basis that large families are “not consistent with the creation of a vibrant new community.”
Tenants, who have lived at Brookland Manor with their families for years, disagree with this notion. Named plaintiff, Adriann Borum, comments: “They say it takes a village to raise a child. I was raised at Brookland Manor, and have raised 5 children here. Brookland Manor is our village, and our village is being torn apart.”
Ms. Borum has lived at Brookland Manor for 28 years, but her four bedroom apartment is among those that would be bulldozed and left un-replaced in the proposed redevelopment. She and other residents bringing this lawsuit want to preserve their homes, which are among the only affordable apartments with three, four, or five bedrooms in the District.
The complaint filed today details the resident families’ claims that Defendants seek to exclude and displace up to 150 families by eliminating family-sized units (three-, four- and five-bedroom units) in the redevelopment, which will have a discriminatory and disproportional impact on families. The lawsuit also seeks an order from the court halting the proposed redevelopment to prevent any further forced displacement of tenants prior to the resolution of this court action.
Covington & Burling LLP will be arguing the case in court. Maureen Browne, a partner at Covington, notes the importance of this matter, stating, “the residents of Brookland Manor deserve to continue living in a community they have nurtured and supported for many years and, in some cases, for generations. The proposed redevelopment seeks to destroy the fabric of this community by excluding and displacing larger families. We are hopeful that this lawsuit encourages Mid-City and its partners to reconsider and rework the current plan.”
“Discrimination against families in housing is not only illegal, it is wrong. A diversity of family size and familial relationships is essential to a strong and healthy inclusive community. Our clients built and invested in their community at Brookland Manor and should not be pushed out of the very redevelopment that will bring the community amenities,” said Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which joined Covington in representing the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Speaking on behalf of organizational plaintiff ONE DC, who joined the Brookland Manor tenants in bringing this action, Dominic T. Moulden stated that “ONE DC recognizes Black low-income DC residents’ right to housing and right to the city . . . and we defend these rights through legal action to protect all DC citizens’ right to fair, equitable, and large family housing units at Brookland Manor.”
This redevelopment, coupled with the extreme geographical limitations on available affordable family-sized apartments, will perpetuate segregation along economic and racial lines. Moreover, if unable to find housing, the affected families at Brookland Manor may face a serious risk of homelessness, a risk which is even higher for households with five or more people. For tenants, some of whom were homeless before they came to Brookland Manor, this lawsuit is a last-ditch effort to save their homes.
The action was filed by the Covington & Burling LLP and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee on behalf of the tenants.
Washington City Paper (August 25, 2016)
dcist (August 25, 2016)
Courthouse News (August 26, 2016)
NBC4 Washington (August 29, 2016)
The Washington Post (August 29, 2016)
WPFW radio broadcast (September 6, 2016)