DC Attorney General Karl Racine said his office has won a long-running lawsuit against a group of landlords and developers who conspired to displace African American tenants from homes they lived in for years.
A settlement, which resolved the lawsuit filed against the owners of Congress Heights Apartments — CityPartners and Geoffrey Griffis, will set a precedent for future cases, according to Racine.
“This resolution holds slumlords and developers accountable for executing their illegal and immoral business plan that brazenly and unlawfully put profits over people. It’s a major victory for the courageous remaining tenants of the Congress Heights Apartments and for affordable housing in the District,” Racine said in a statement on Wednesday, January 5.
With the settlement, Racine’s first lawsuit that aims to protect low-income tenants in the apartment building has been concluded.
The slumlords illegally forced tenants to live in terrible, unsafe conditions to try to push them out, clearing the way for new development.
Our win sets strong precedent and keeps these brave tenants, most of whom are African American, in their homes.https://t.co/xhb97LFXll
— AG Karl A. Racine (@AGKarlRacine) January 5, 2022
The landlords will now be held accountable for using illegal tactics in order to force the residents out for creating pricey market-rate housing near the Congress Heights Metro Station and making those people live in unsafe conditions.
The building’s new nonprofit owner will redesign the 47-unit apartment complex as 180 units of affordable housing.
“Thank you to our Attorney General Karl Racine for standing up for us, the tenants at the Congress Heights apartments, when our landlords for many years endangered our health and safety, violated our TOPA rights, and tried to force us to leave our homes,” Ruth Barnwell, head of the Congress Heights SE Tenants Association, was quoted as saying in Racine’s release.
“Now, at last, our determination and hard work with our advocates and lawyers—and the crucial receivership case brought by the Office of the Attorney General—are paying off. For decades in the future, our tenants—along with many other members of our community, including families and seniors—will be able to enjoy living in safe, healthy and affordable housing in Congress Heights.”
Three previous consumer protection lawsuits filed by Racine’s office against the complex’s former owners, Sanford Capital and Carter Nowell, were resolved in 2019 through a joint settlement agreement that led to the restitution of $214,000 to 10 remaining tenants.