We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

The residents of Alexandria’s Arlandria-Chirilagua Housing Co-operative thought their problems with rent increases, evictions, and utility hikes were over when the tenants purchased the low-income development back in 1995 and decided to run it themselves.

As it turns out, not so much, residents say.

On Tuesday, about 50 or so residents of the 282-unit co-op staged a protest in front of the multi-building complex, alleging that its elected co-op board, comprised of residents, is mismanaging funds and retaliating against those tenants who have asked that the books be opened.

During the demonstration, residents said board members are handing down random evictions and rent hikes in an attempt to silence the vocally disgruntled.

Mesfun Berhane, a resident of the complex, says that the board attempted to raise the rent and utility fees this month and if tenants can not—-or will not—-pay the new rate, they are threatened with eviction and also barred from voting in a fall election that will determine whether the complex gets new leadership or not.

“There has been a $100 rent increase,” Berhane said. “We refused to pay and now they are trying to evict us so that we will not vote against them.”

Another resident of Arlandria-Chirilagua, which lies between Alexandria’s Del Ray and Arlington’s Ridge Road neighborhoods, said that management has been withholding hot water in an attempt to push residents out and that he is tired of giving his children cold-water baths.
Tenants also said that the nine-member board, and the management staff of the complex, is stacked entirely with members from 3 families who are running the co-op like a dictatorship. “This is our place, but they’re trying to turn it into their place,” one woman said.

“They’re trying to run it like their family business,” Berhane said.

Calls to the management office of Arlandria-Chirilagua weren’t immediately returned, but if someone from one of the families decides to talk, City Desk will give you the scoop.