Lawsuit accuses DC housing authority of endangering tenants

A lawsuit filed by the city accuses the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) of endangering over 5,000 tenants in 10 public housing properties.

The suit also alleges that the D.C. Housing Authority also endangered the surrounding communities in Wards 1,5, 6 and 7, by failing to confront “drug- and firearm-related nuisances at the properties,” a news release from the D.C. Attorney General’s Office said.

“District law requires building owners such as DCHA to maintain their properties and take reasonable precautions to protect their tenants and properties from crime,” Attorney General Karl Racine said.

“In response to complaints from residents, our office repeatedly warned DCHA about dangerous and illegal activity at their properties, putting tenants—especially children, seniors, and residents with disabilities—at risk.”

The properties named in the suit include Kenilworth Courts Apartments, Langston Terrace and Additions, Lincoln Heights Apartments, and Richardson Dwellings Apartments in Northeast; LeDroit Apartments and Kelly Miller Apartments in Northwest; James Creek Apartments and Syphax Gardens Apartments in Southwest; and Benning Terrace Apartments, Stoddert Terrace Apartments, and the public housing properties formerly known as the Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg Apartments in Southeast.

Court documents said that between January 2019 to May 2020, D.C. police responded to over 5,270 incidents at the properties, including homicides, shootings and drug offenses.

“Of the more than 5,270 incidents MPD has responded to since January 2019, more than 1,000 have occurred at James Creek Apartments in Ward 6 alone,” the news release said.

The lawsuit said that residents and the D.C. Attorney General’s Office have asked for actions, such as increase security presence, lighting and camera, but the housing authority “has failed to respond to both.”

Law enforcement has regularly seized drug and firearms when executing search warrants at the properties, the D.C. Attorney General’s Office said.

DCHA is also accused of breaking several violations under the Nuisance Act, including failing to make security improvements to keep residents safe from crime, such as shootings, homicides, as well as assaults with dangerous weapons; and ignoring repeated warnings to address nuisance issues.

The D.C. Housing Authority is an independent D.C. agency that provides housing for low- and moderate-income residents.

In 2018, a 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson was shot and killed while walking to an ice cream truck at the D.C. Housing Authority property Richardson Dwellings Apartment, also known as Clay Terrace, in Northeast. During that same year, the Arthur Capper Apartments was the scene of a fire that displaced hundreds of senior residents.

Last year, a teenager was found shot and killed in a vacant apartment in Southwest and a camera that sits over the D.C. Housing Authority property was found not operational.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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