credit: Photo: Lilah Burke

Residents of the Barry Farm public housing community have filed a class action lawsuit against the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA) for discriminatory housing practices. The suit was filed by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. 

Barry Farm has been slated for redevelopment since 2006, and was awaiting funding for the project until 2016. Planners intend to create a more attractive and functional facilities, while making the community mixed-income. They have promised that the new development will contain the same number of public housing units, in addition to some higher-priced options. Current residents must be moved before construction can begin.  

The lawsuit alleges that although DCHA has promised a right of return for all residents, the replacement units will not be suitable for all current Barry Farm families. Residents suggest that the new development will have fewer multi-bedroom apartments and therefore families with children will have to look elsewhere for housing. The plaintiffs believe that this constitutes discrimination on the basis of family status, a violation of the Fair Housing Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act 

Additionally, the suit suggests that DCHA has not provided expedient or thorough maintenance repairs to the property, effectively discriminating against residents because their housing is slated to be demolished. The three current and former tenants who have filed the suit, in conjunction with Empower DC and the Barry Farm Tenants and Allies Association, represent the two groups who stand to be affected by the redevelopment: families with children and those who live in residences of disrepair. Currently, there are 502 residents at Barry Farm, living in 187 of 444 units.