Yesterday, the Museum Square Tenants Association filed a lawsuit against the owner of their apartment complex in an effort to preserve affordable housing in the building, which has 302 units for low-income D.C. residents. Legal Aid is proud to represent the tenant association along with the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, and the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP. The suit claims that the owner’s offer to sell the property for $250 million is not a “bona fide offer of sale” under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act.
The owner recently informed the tenants that it was no longer going to participate in the funding program that kept the units in the building as affordable housing. Shortly thereafter, in June 2014, the owner offered the building to the tenants for sale and indicated, in the notice, that if the tenants could not purchase at the $250 million price, the building would be demolished and all tenants would be forced to leave. The assessed value of the property, according to the D.C. government, is $36 million.
Museum Square is located at 401 K Street NW at the edge of Chinatown. Approximately seventy percent of the residents are Chinese immigrants, and a large number have limited proficiency in English. Many of the residents have occupied their homes for years or decades, and have watched as their neighborhood welcomed new luxury rental and condominium buildings in recent years. The building owner's actions have already prompted D.C. Council to pass emergency legislation earlier this summer. If forced to leave Museum Square, these tenants will almost certainly have to depart from Chinatown to secure affordable housing.
The lawsuit was also covered by Washington City Paper yesterday.