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Brentwood residents sue apartment complex owner over planned project

The tenants of Brookland Manor claim that Mid-City is discriminating against families

The planned overhaul of Brookland Manor
Image via Perkins Eastman

In Washington, D.C., nearly 150 low- and moderate-income families are at risk for displacement due an apartment complex owner’s plans to redevelop the property. According to the lawsuit filed against the owner of Brookland Manor Apartments, Mid-City Financial Corp, the redevelopment plan violates federal and D.C. fair housing laws that protect tenants from discrimination based on their "familial status." The plaintiffs now hope to halt the project by asking for an injunction, reported Washington City Paper.

Currently, Brookland Manor features 19 garden apartment buildings that house a total of 535 apartments, two-thirds of which are subsidized. The proposed 18-acre redevelopment calls for building 1,760 residential units, 181,000 square feet of retail space, and 1,590 parking spaces. 384 of the residential units would be designated for affordable housing.

In a letter to the Washington Post’s editorial board, Mid-City Chairman Michael Meers said that the company hoped to build "an inclusive community" with affordable housing. Despite the plans for the development to have affordable units and 200 set aside for seniors, Catherine Cone, WLC staff attorney, argued that Meers’ statement is untrue due to the planned removal of family-sized housing from the project. The project plans to remove many three-bedroom apartments and all four- and five-bedroom apartments from the property.

Washington City Paper reported:

"The owner has the dubious distinction of being at the center of a recent Washington Post investigation that found that Mid-City sued to evict residents more than 370 times from January 2014 to March 2016. Notably, fewer than 5 percent of the suits led to eviction being carried out. But in dozens of cases, the paper reported, Mid-City sued residents over less than $100 in unpaid rent and over lease violations of disputable validity (like walking a dog without a leash). One tenant was sued five times."

In April 2015, Mid-City cut the plans by 21 percent after hearing concerns from the D.C. Office of Planning, the Zoning Commission, and residents in the community. Originally, the owner hoped to build 2.2 million square feet of development rather than the current plans for 1.9 million square feet. The project previously called for 2,235 residential units, 201,680 square feet of retail, and 1,700 parking spaces.

Covington & Burling, the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights (WLC), and Urban Affairs are representing the tenants.