All of those bad news mean nothing to a group of courageous and hopeful neighbors in DC, who have organized themselves in order to buy the building they rent for years, located in the Columbia Heights section of Washington, DC.
The tenants of 1111 Columbia Rd NW have created the Tenants United for Dignity and Justice for All Tenants Association, with the support and advice from community leaders of the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) a non-profit with a special program intended to help prospect buyers to make a wise investment in their first home.
In order to collect necessary funds the TUDJATA has organized several fundraising events, including two successful Tenants Talent Shows. Here is a glance of what happened last weekend at one of those events:
Keeping DC a diverse and affordable place to live
In the last few years Washington, DC has seeing an increasing process of urban gentrification, which has brought fancy condo buildings and department stores to devastates neighbors like Columbia Heights for example, but that has also pushed working-class neighbors out because of an increasing cost of living.
Several property owners have even tried to take more advantage of this "housing boom" in the District, by neglecting their apartment buildings -or even setting them in fire?- so neighbors would leave on their own, hoping to convert them into expensive condominiums.
For those of us who live in DC, we can say that gentrification has caused a favorable impact to the eye of the visitors and rich newcomers to the area. But so many of us have faced the harsh reality of not being able to pay for a place to live. I know cases of people being evicted and becoming homeless, or forced to move to dangerous and distant areas of the metropolitan area.
It's been an impressive urban beautification program that has left the DC tenants as its last priority, while attracting necessary investment to the area regulators forgot about to most vulnerable.
The DC government has done its part to help tenants, however there seem to be some contradictions. The DC Council created for instance a special Office of the Tenants Rights Advocate, which has helped neighbors in times of crisis and has organized also advocacy training classes.
Still, many believe the city is not doing enough, or is even doing wrong: a group of homeless people are suing Mayor Fenty after he order to close the only DC downtown shelter, with promises of relocating over 300 men into free housing which turned out to be distant, unsafe and unsanitary for many of them.
The LEDC team believe that there should be another way to face the housing crisis in DC. For instance, current tenants should have the first priority when landlords want to sell, and they should organize collectively to buy. Also, the DC government should enforce and pass legislation, so housing inspections are first executed before any further action of sale or rent increase are taken. Meanwhile, several tenant meetings have been held to organize tenants and inform them of their rights.
This valuable effort made by the young activists of the LEDC team, ought to be praised. These organizers are assisting and working along DC neighbors, so they can preserve affordable housing. Many of the LEDC team were born and raised in DC or other big urban areas, and they believe that everyone can pitch in to build a better community, perhaps because they have seeing that happening in their own lives.
What kind of city is DC going to be? That depends on everyone who lives and works in this unique place. We can either let others design the spaces we call home -not just your tiny box with windows- or we can participate actively and make sure this urban center reflects the interests of everyone living here.