Picture of the homes of Talbert Street
The town houses at 1262 Talbert St. SE near the Anacostia Metro station were built with city assistance through the Housing Production Trust Fund. Photo by Will Schick

A dozen homeowners who purchased properties in Southeast D.C. that fell apart soon after they were constructed filed a new lawsuit last month against the city, the developer, and a housing nonprofit.

The lawsuit builds on claims made in an earlier court case initiated in January by another group of nine homeowners at 1262 Talbert St. SE. The first suit was a complaint against the city, the homeowners association, and the developer. In August, a District judge dismissed both the association and the city from the case, citing a lack of sufficient evidence and insufficient procedural grounds. Because the developer has filed for bankruptcy, the timeline for the courts to determine the firm’s liability in the initial case remains unclear.

An attorney representing the nine Ward 8 homeowners filed a notice of appeal in September.

In this new court filing, 12 plaintiffs — two of whom were also party to the first complaint — argue that the city and the developer are guilty of negligence and did not fulfill their responsibilities to ensure the homes were built properly. It also brings claims against the nonprofit Manna Inc. — which offers housing counseling among its various services — for violations of the Consumer Procedures Protection Act. While the previous court case included claims for breach of contract, emotional distress and violations of the consumer protection act, it did not bring forward specific claims for negligence against the city or Manna Inc.

“Rather than admit failure of a key affordable housing development project, and suffer embarrassment, the District government looked away from red flags that should have stopped the program,” according to a statement prepared by Ari Theresa, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Thanks to millions of dollars in subsidies from the city government, the developers — Stanton View Development LLC and River East at Anacostia LLC  — built the homes as part of the District’s initiatives to help provide low-income, first-time homebuyers with affordable housing. But in August, four years after the town houses were constructed on a hillside near the Anacostia Metro station, the homeowners were told by an engineering firm to evacuate their homes due to severe structural issues.

Many of the displaced homeowners scattered to other parts of the city after the District gave them temporary one-year housing certificates and one-time cash payments of $7,000. In previous reporting from Street Sense Media and The DC Line, homeowners recounted their struggles in finding affordable accommodations and dealing with the damage to their properties.

As part of the Talbert Street homebuyers’ participation in D.C.’s affordable housing programs, Manna Inc. provided homeownership training. The lawsuit claims that the nonprofit used “high-pressure sales tactics” despite knowledge that the properties the homeowners were purchasing had “serious defects.” The plaintiffs also allege that Manna discouraged them from getting independent home inspections prior to closing on their new properties.

An initial hearing conference is scheduled for Jan. 28 with Judge William M. Jackson in D.C. Superior Court.

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This article was co-published with The DC Line.

Will Schick covers DC government and public affairs through a partnership between Street Sense Media and The DC Line. Year one of this joint position was made possible by the Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism Fellowship, The Nash Foundation, and individual contributors.