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Readers were rightfully indignant over revelations in last week’s investigative piece from Alexa Mills and Andrew Giambrone about the systematic strategy slumlord Sanford Capital employs to force residents to leave: allowing buildings to become squalid. And that’s despite the company being enriched with about $3.7 million a year in local and federal subsidies through tenant housing vouchers. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has deemed the company’s practices so negligent that his office has sued Sanford.
Drphungky’s response was not unlike our own. “What the fuck is the city council doing about this?” the reader wrote on Reddit. “We talk about a lack of affordable housing, and let this guy become a slumlord to try to flip properties to developers? Like, good on the DCAG, but there should be more public movement on this. It’s a no brainer optics wise too. No one likes slumlords. Go hold a press conference in front of the building and rail against the abuses. I mean that seems like an easy political win. … Maybe this article will help bring some awareness, at least. Good on the City Paper for some real local journalism where the Post seems to be lacking these days.”
The D.C. Council has so far been silent on the issue, busy as it is with legislation such as Councilmember Brandon Todd’s recent resolution warning of the risks of heavy backpacks for D.C. schoolchildren. Such little solace for mothers forced to heat their apartments with their ovens, assuming they’re even working.
Meanwhile, when City Paper asked Mayor Muriel Bowser this week whether she had read the piece chronicling the company’s abject delinquencies, she offered a hard “no.” Bowser, whose mayoral campaign received contributions from Sanford, was apparently unmoved some weeks ago after visiting the company’s G Street Apartments, where mold, cockroaches, and dead refrigerators are prevalent. “Mayor Bowser was standing right here where you’re standing right now, just five, six weeks ago,” resident Warren Branham told Mills. “She came right here, but she didn’t come in.” Bowser did, however, promise follow-up DCRA visits, one of which happened on Jan. 30, the other of which is scheduled for March 1.
City Paper reader Betsy B hopes elected officials beyond Racine will ultimately take notice. “This is muckraking in all its glory,” she wrote. “I can only hope that this article, and the Jacob Riis worthy photos, wake up people who have the power to restore the human rights of Sanford’s tenants and that, even better, it puts other slumlords on notice.” We do too.