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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Public Housing Tenants Safeguard D.C. Property

WASHINGTON (CN) - The D.C. Housing Authority agreed to settle with the residents of a public housing community facing plans for extensive renovations that would force them out.

Schyla Pondexter-Moore and her group Highland Together We Stand led the legal charge against the plans to renovate the Ward 8 public housing community of Highland Dwellings.

She says the district has lost thousands of public housing units to demolition and redevelopment for private use. When Pondexter-Moore discovered the city's plans to modernize Highland Dwellings back in 2010, she organized the residents and filed a federal lawsuit to protect the public housing complex.

The parties announced a settlement in October that will keep Highland Dwelling as a public housing property for the next 40 years despite the renovations.

"We fought a good fight," Renee Patterson, another plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. "Housing knew what they did was unjust and a lot of wrong doing. Myself and other tenants in Highland Dwellings fought back and now I can say justice was served."

Empower DC, a community-based public housing resident advocacy group, says that the 208 units at Highland Dwellings will remain as public housing for 40 years after the renovations.

Tenants still won't be asked to pay utilities or more than 30 percent of their income. They won't have to meet minimum income requirements, undergo credit checks or other such provisions that the group says have been common in other redevelopment projects. The settlement also gives the Highland Dwellings residents the right of first refusal to return after the renovations.

The group says Washington used to host 20,000 public housing units prior to 1998. That number is down to about 8,000.

"With so many people in need of housing, why does the mayor continue to allow public housing to be demolished and not be replaced," Pondexter-Moore asked in the statement. "Where do the mayor and council expect people to live? There is a direct connection between the demolition of public housing and the rise of homelessness. Is the district government deliberately exacerbating the loss of public housing and rise of homeless? These are all questions we at Empower DC believe are worthy of investigation."

Judge Joan Zeldon presided over the case, which was remanded back to D.C. Superior Court in 2011.

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