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The redevelopment of Ward 8’s Barry Farm Dwellings, one of the District’s most notorious public housing complexes known for rampant crime and deteriorating conditions, will begin in late 2018 and relocation of the 200 or so current residents will start this summer, officials say.
The District has received permission from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to begin the process of rebuilding at Barry Farm—a 432-unit complex built in 1943— according to documents provided by D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA) spokesman Rick White.
“The Housing Authority and its partners have had to take a very, very hard look at Barry Farm and that process, and it was determined that the best effective use of funds is to have a rolling relocation start and roll across the entire site until the relocation is completed,” DCHA’s interim executive director Nathan Bovelle said last week during a meeting of the department’s board. Bovelle recently replaced Adrianne Todman, who served under both Mayor Vince Gray and Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Although DCHA has planned uniform relocations for about a year, and communicated those plans in writing and via meetings, Barry Farm organizers and residents appeared to be caught off guard. They signaled during the meeting that they thought a “rebuild in place” plan was on the table.
“It seems like you lied to residents,” said Aquarius Vann-Ghasri, a tenant representative on DCHA’s advisory board. “My recommendation is you have the meetings in Barry Farm and do it in a letter.”
To clarify when the decision was made, Kimberly Black King, chief development officer for DCHA, was summoned to the front of the room.
“I believe that was a decision that was made in August or September of last year,” King said flatly. “We briefed the commissioners and had a meeting with residents.”
Reaction from the 60 or so attendees from Barry Farm, holding signs reading “Rebuild in Place,” was swift and unyielding, and a collective frustration took over the gathered crowd.
When public testimony began, Paulette Matthews, a former supervisor at the National Zoo and resident of Barry Farm for the past 20 years, was called to speak first.
“As always, when coming down here, every time I get more baffled and confused,” she said. “You should have known there would be some messed-up reactions to all this.”
Nearly one-third of residents are behind on their rent, and some said they believed back rent should be forgiven because many of the housing units have been condemned. Meanwhile, hope seems lost for activists like Matthews, who pledge to continue the fight.
City officials have set a private meeting for residents this evening to discuss the interiors of the new units.
This post has been updated.