The District has filed a motion to dismiss the $1 billion lawsuit brought against the city by civil rights attorney Aristotle Theresa on behalf of native residents for damages due to gentrification.
The District’s counsel, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), responded to the suit, which claims that the District has implemented policies that discriminated against Black residents, and promoted discrimination based on race, age, source of income, family, religion and matriculation to attract the “creative class,” asked the court to dismiss the case.
“[The] plaintiffs allege that the District has engaged in a conspiracy to implement economic and residential development policies that favor housing for a ‘creative class’ (millennials who are college educated) over ‘legacy DC residents’ (low-income African-Americans families),” the OAG’s motion read. “The District understands [the] plaintiffs’ concerns about the changing natures of their communities and the challenges they and others face in securing the homes and neighborhoods they desire.”
The motion said the city has invested great time and effort to address the concerns but said the lawsuit against the city “failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” It argued that the claims made in the original lawsuit do not prove that District’s development policies had the intent to discriminate and in fact had a disproportionate effect on a protected group.
The original lawsuit filed on behalf of three native Washingtonians and CARE, a community group with over 20 members claims that the city’s housing and urban renewal policies have discriminated against Black legacy residents to be more attractive to new millennial renters.
Several D.C. agencies are being sought after for damages and displacement, including the city’s Office of Planning, Zoning Commission, Housing Authority, the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, former Mayor Adrian Fenty and current Mayor Muriel Bowser. It also specifically cites policies such as the Creative Action Agenda from the Fenty administration and the Creative Economy Strategy under former Mayor and current Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7).
According to the lawsuit, the city successfully attracted workers though it came at the cost of low- and middle-income Black families, who have been pushed out of the city because of skyrocketing housing prices. The complaint states the creative workers the city sought to attract had specific, disruptive housing preferences that would displace locals.
The lawsuit states that over the past 12 years, “planning agencies have used land-use policy as a primary tool to implement this agenda and instead of implementing policy to address the needs of current residents these land-use policies leverage amenities to attract the targeted [anti-Black] demographic group.”
Seven years ago, it was reported that Black residents were longer the majority of the city’s population for the first time in more than 50 years.
“The city is intentionally trying to lighten Black neighborhoods, and the way they have primarily been doing that is through construction of high density, luxury buildings, that primarily only offers studio and one-bedroom [units],” the suit said.
If the case is successful, it will set a precedent for other major cities dealing with the displacement of its minority populations.