Congress Heights tenants continue fight against displacement during Saturday protest

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A group of tenants, non-profit leaders, and supporters marched through a Northwest D.C. neighborhood on Saturday to the home of a developer to fight gentrification and "slumlords."

The protest is the latest in a years-long battle regarding the remaining 13 tenants in a Congress Heights neighborhood at Alabama Avenue and 13th Street.

In December of 2017, CityPartners, a Washington-based development group, took possession of the three apartment buildings adjacent to the Congress Heights Metro Station from affiliates of Sanford Capital, LLC, in a “deed in lieu of foreclosure” transaction. Their plan is to build a major residential, commercial, and retail complex.

Back in 2016, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine sued Sanford Capitol, in part for unsafe and unsanitary conditions in the buildings.

Tenants felt the horrible conditions were an effort to push them out so the company could move forward with a redevelopment plan.

"They stopped cleaning the buildings, trash started to pile up," said a tenant on Saturday.

According to the non-profit ONE DC, the lawsuit lead to two court orders, to build 200 units of affordable housing or a $2 million payment to the court to repair the property.

Tenants now have concerns that CityPartners, lead by founder and managing partner Geoff Griffis, will force tenants out and not provide affordable housing in the new project.

They marched to Griffis' home in Northwest D.C. on Saturday with signs saying "slumlord."

"In D.C., too often there's poor working class and primarily people of color who are cleared out of their apartments merely because the landlord wants to make a profit," said a supporter.

Griffis says the group is targeting the wrong person.

According to a CityPartners press release, the company is presenting the 13 tenants at the site with three options:

  1. Temporarily relocate in the neighborhood and then return to live in the beautiful new and safe buildings, at their current rental rates or
  2. Move out and receive a negotiated buyout amount now or
  3. Become limited owners in the project by investing the buyout amount, giving tenants the potential for positive returns on their investment. Tenants will be given ample time to make an informed decision.

On a separate website in light of the protests, Griffis says the $120 million project will preserve affordable housing and respect tenants rights, while building beautiful new shops, restaurants, and offices in a booming D.C. neighborhood.

In a statement to DCW50, Griffis said:

"The protestors have their facts wrong and are venting at the wrong guy. They are upset about the actions of the former landlord at Congress Heights, who today has absolutely no involvement with our project. I am offering to treat the 13 tenants at the Congress Heights Metro site with compassion and generosity. I will of course honor their TOPA rights, and have even offered to make them limited owners in the project, with the potential to earn money on this exciting new development."

The group on Saturday says they still plan to fight the project.