Credit: Darrow Montgomery

After a company advanced plans to redevelop government-subsidized housing in Ward 5 last month, attorneys for the property’s low-income tenants, who fear displacement, have replied with a fiery memo arguing that the company’s move shows even more “need for immediate [court] action.”

The plaintiffs’ retort, filed Thursday and first reported by the Washington Business Journal, follows MidCity Financial Corp.’s September submission to the D.C. Zoning Commission of second-stage architectural plans for a substantial part of a mixed-use project at Brookland Manor. A month earlier, attorneys for the tenants had filed a class-action lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for D.C. alleging that MidCity’s plans discriminate against tenants’ “familial status” (a protected class, under federal and local law) because they do not contain four- and five-bedroom units that would sufficiently accommodate those who currently live there.

Now, the tenants’ lawyers say the company went ahead with its second-stage plans, which were not due until Nov. 6, without informing them or a judge, and before the court could rule on the lawsuit filed in August. For its RIA Block 7 component of the project, MidCity proposes to redevelop 2.6 acres of the site into a four-story apartment building with 130-plus units (up to three-bedrooms-large), and a second building for roughly 200 seniors. The company has come under scrutiny in recent months for its eviction practices, which tenants and their backers have characterized as aggressive.

“In light of Defendants’ decision to hurry their redevelopment plan forward without regard for this Court’s adjudicative process, the irreparable harm facing the Plaintiffs is even more apparent, as is the need for a preliminary injunction to enjoin Defendant’s attempts to infringe upon Plaintiff’s housing rights,” contend attorneys Maureen Browne and Matthew Handley, of Covington & Burling and the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, respectively. “Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court issue a preliminary injunction barring Defendants from taking any action to relocate on or off the property, evict, or otherwise bring about the cessation of tenancy of any leaseholder currently resident at Brookland Manor on the basis of the proposed redevelopment plan.”

MidCity’s “actions remove any doubt that they have no interest in allowing the adjudication of this case to halt their redevelopment and the associated relocation of families,” the attorneys add. 

A representative from MidCity declined to comment on the lawsuit. Zoning Commission records show that MidCity submitted a “notice of intent” to file second-stage plans for the redevelopment on Aug. 4, giving it “at least 45 days” (or at least until mid-September) to follow through. The tenants’ lawsuit was filed at the end of August. 

Community-based organization ONE DC joined the tenants in the lawsuit.