The residents of DC’s Museum Square are a model of resilience. If you’ve seen the media coverage of their story, you’ve been moved by their commitment to saving their home – and affordable housing in the District.
The Museum Square tenants are low-income individuals and families, primarily Chinese immigrants, whose legal case began in 2013 when the Chinatown housing complex’s owner opted out of its Section 8 contract. The owner’s aim? Demolishing Museum Square and redeveloping the land into luxury condos and commercial space.
As their fight continues today and Museum Square’s future remains uncertain, the tenants face real burdens:
The owner has not made repairs and has allowed existing problems to go untended.
Elevators don’t always work, making life difficult and dangerous for elderly and disabled tenants.
Instead of maintaining the building, the owners have allowed it to deteriorate, in the hope that tenants will move out. When they do, apartments stand vacant.
Because of these concerns, tenants feel uncomfortable and under-valued.
Their story is not uncommon, as redevelopment of previously “undesirable” DC neighborhoods increases and the cost of housing rises. Low-income residents – many of whom have lived and worked here for years – risk losing their homes, breaking up their families, and negatively impacting their children’s schooling when their affordable housing dwindles.
Our funding for Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center’s (APALRC) Housing & Community Development Project is giving the tenants of both Museum Square and Wah Luck House the legal aid they need. This includes help with other legal issues affecting their ability to maintain their housing, such as loss of income. Our funding also promotes APALRC’s partnership with nonprofits working to protect the rights of renters and pro bono attorneys providing free legal representation. This team effort is critical for informing and assisting low-income tenants.
Your support of the DC Bar Foundation makes this possible. Thank you for being the change-makers working towards ensuring equal access to justice for our neighbors most in need. Together, we’ll continue this work in times that make it more urgent than ever.
Kirra L. Jarratt Executive Director