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Behind the Walls: D.C. Housing Authority Residents Fight for a Say in Redevelopment Plans

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at American chapter.

The District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) residents call for transparent and collaborative communication in the redevelopment plans for Lincoln Heights and Richardson Dwellings. 

On Oct. 11, DCHA passed Resolution 23-48 to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the demolition and disposition of the Lincoln Heights and Richardson Dwellings located in Deanwood neighborhood in Ward 7. 

Lincoln Heights and Richardson Dwellings are public housing developments owned by DCHA that have been part of the city’s New Communities Initiative, an effort to transform the neighborhood into a mixed-income, mixed-use community since 2006. 

The passing of Resolution 23-48 begins the long-planned redevelopment of the site by applying to demolish 273 units, which requires several families to move out of their homes. 

Residents and community leaders say they are concerned about the lack of communication from DCHA regarding the project and relocation. 

Patricia Malloy, the former resident council president for Lincoln Heights, recalled completing a survey of Lincoln Heights, but neither she nor her neighbors knew the plan called for the property to be demolished.  

“The residents of Lincoln Heights have no voice,” said Malloy. “We know the property has to go down. But out of all respect, at least tell them so they won’t say, ‘we don’t know what’s happening.’ That’s the problem.”

Malloy says she feels disheartened and requested for DCHA to table the motion until they thoroughly communicate with the residents who will be impacted by the demolition. 

“I feel abandoned and misled,” said Joyce Simmons, Richardson Dwellings resident and council president. “I have little positive information to give my residents. This lack of care makes a horrible and discouraging living environment, more than goodwill follows.”

The Office of Capital Programs (OCP) must have two yearly meetings with residents about their properties and potential changes. Malloy and Simmons said these meetings did not provide enough information about the redevelopment plans, such as when it would begin or who would be impacted. 

DCHA Chairman Raymond Skinner said that the board has seen several redevelopment proposals from OCP staff, but it’s clear from testimonies and emails that there’s a disconnect between what the board and residents are told. Skinner acknowledges more frequent meetings to bridge the disconnect between the OCP and residents should be planned. 

“Two required resident meetings are certainly not enough to really convey what is happening and to make sure residents understand what is happening,” said Skinner.

The last meeting the OCP had with Richardson Dwellings was in August, so residents did not know when the resolution was supposed to move forward, admitted Andre Gould, the project manager.

Keith Pettigrew, the CEO of Alexandria’s housing authority and executive director of the D.C. Housing Authority, said it is crucial to keep residents engaged, informed and aware of the schedule by including them in the development process and conducting monthly meetings. 

“We included residents from the beginning of the process, including picking development partners, up until the end of the process,” said Pettigrew regarding his past redevelopment projects. “So, resident engagement is extremely, extremely important.”

Gould affirmed that he and John Stringfield, the vice president of the Office of Capital Programs will tell the residents that this resolution was approved and what this means for them.

DCHA approved Resolution 23-48 to begin the demolition and disposition process. Still, Stringfield pledged to create a plan for more frequent engagement at sites with active redevelopment plans to ensure better resident communication.

Maryjane is a sophomore at American University majoring in journalism and business. She is passionate about social justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and women's rights. Maryjane is a Feature Writer for HCAU and lives in DC.