The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Washington, D.C.:
Church-Owners Displace Poor Renters

Jan 17, 2022

The mostly elderly and poor people who have lived for years in the Foster House Apartments in Washington, D.C. are being forced out by revolting conditions. The eight-story building in the Shaw neighborhood was built in the early 1970s by Bethel Church to give poor people decent, publicly subsidized housing. Reverend Walter Fauntroy was the head of D.C.’s Southern Christian Leadership Council chapter and led local organizing for the 1963 March on Washington.

Since 2010 new leadership in the church has tried to turn the building over to developers to rebuild, while the neighborhood has become much more expensive. Tenants fought off the first attempt. Then, in 2018 the church leased the building to a highly politically-connected local developer, who plans to add more than 200 expensive units without public rent subsidy. But to cut corners—and make the existing tenants leave—the developer and the church have resorted to heinous tricks.

The developer refuses to fix the broken central air conditioning, so tenants have had to pay much more out of pocket to run window units. The city’s attorney general documented over 700 housing violations as of last November. Broken or missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and alarms, expired fire extinguishers, rodent and bedbug infestations, mold, peeling paint, cracks in exterior walls….

Some renters who remain are fighting for their right to stay and to have decent conditions. But a system that makes old people have to fight for their housing is a system that needs to be torn down.