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					                                                                  WASHINGTON
                                                                  LAWYERS’
                                                                  COMMITTEE
                                                                  FOR CIVIL RIGHTS &
                                                                  URBAN AFFAIRS




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                       CONTACT: Julie Rosenthal
                                                                 202-248-8449

                                                                     Adrienne Ammerman
                                                                     202-386-7609

  IN THE DISTRICT’S BATTLE FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING, A WIN FOR LONG-TIME
                                RESIDENTS

  Federal Judge Rules Landlord Violated Federal Law by Refusing Affordable Housing Rental Subsidies

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 31, 2007 – In the ongoing struggle over affordable housing in rapidly
gentrifying areas in DC, a federal judge ruled against a landlord who refused to accept housing subsidies
from low-income tenants. The Legal Aid Society, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Bread for
the City, Crowell and Moring LLP and Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban
Affairs have aided residents renting homes on Bates Street in Northwest D.C. from being evicted from
their homes this winter. On January 12, 2007, Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that BSA Limited
Partnership (BSA), which at one time owned more than 30 affordable townhouses on Bates St. near North
Capitol and New York Avenues, violated federal law by refusing rental vouchers, which the government
provides to low income tenants to help keep their rents affordable.


Bates Street residents Bridgette Feemster, Sabrina Lymore, and eight others first brought the case against
BSA in the summer of 2004, when BSA refused to accept the tenants’ vouchers as payment for rent and
instead attempted to force the tenants into relocating. Many of the tenants, some of whom had lived in
their homes for over 20 years, refused to move and instead filed suit, claiming that the landlord’s actions
violated both federal and District of Columbia law. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the nation’s
largest, federal, low-income housing assistance program. The Voucher Program entitles low-income
families to receive financial assistance to cover a portion of their rent.
“I grew up in the Bates Street Townhomes, and my children were raised here,” said Dorothy Paul, whose
mother also lives in the neighborhood. “The people in this community helped shape who I am. It’s
important to me to stay here and give back to the young people in this area, just like I received help
growing up.”


“This case is not only about the preservation of affordable housing, but about the right for a family to
remain in their home of over 20 years and about the preservation of communities” said Antonia Fasanelli,
staff attorney of the Affordable Housing Initiative at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, who
served as one of the Plaintiffs’ counsel.


BSA argued that it was not legally required to accept the vouchers because it planned to sell the
townhomes. The court, however, rejected BSA’s claim as speculative and ruled that the landlord, because
it continued to operate the townhouses as rental properties, could not refuse the tenants’ vouchers.


According to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, the number of affordable rental units in the District of
Columbia has decreased by 7,500 between 2000 and 2004. “This case was especially important to our
client population,” said Rebecca Lindhurst, staff attorney at Bread for the City. “Given that these tenants
live so close to our Northwest Center, and that we have seen such rapid gentrification in this area, we
knew that we had to help the residents of Bates Street Townhomes.”


Serving as co-counsel, attorneys Julie Becker from The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia,
Antonia Fasanelli from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Rebecca Lindhurst from Bread for
the City, Isabelle Thabault from the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs,
and Clifford Zatz from Crowell & Moring LLP, represented the 10 Plaintiffs that fought the landlord’s
actions.


About The Legal Aid Society of District of Columbia
For 75 years, Legal Aid Society of Washington, DC has been ensuring that the American system of justice works for
everyone, especially those living in poverty. Legal Aid is a nonprofit law firm that with the support of the private
legal community represents clients who have no other means of obtaining legal assistance in civil cases. Its clients
include the elderly, people with mental and physical disabilities and low–income families and individuals living
throughout the District of Columbia. Since its founding in 1932, Legal Aid Society has worked to help people keep
their homes, stabilize their families, have access to health and government benefits, and feel safe in their
communities. With a staff of 25, including 18 lawyers and one social worker, Legal Aid provides advice, brief
assistance, representation, social work case management to thousands of clients each year and serves as an advocate
for systemic change on matters emerging directly from its individual case docket. For more information, visit
www.legalaiddc.org.


About Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
For 20 years, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless has sought to use law and advocacy to meet the needs
of individuals who struggle with homelessness and poverty. It provides legal services to clients who are homeless or
at risk of becoming homeless. The Affordable Housing Initiative, a project of the Washington Legal Clinic,
represents tenants and tenant associations facing displacement through the loss of federally subsidized and other
forms of affordable housing. For more information, visit www.legalclinic.org.


About Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Committee was established in 1968 to
provide pro bono legal services to address issues of discrimination and entrenched poverty. Since its founding, the
Committee has handled more than 5,000 cases on behalf of individuals and advocacy organizations in the areas of
fair housing, equal employment, public accommodations, public education, asylum and refugee rights, and disability
rights. For more information about the Committee, see www.washlaw.org. The Committee can be reached at (202)
319-1000.


About Bread For the City
Bread for the City, is a private, non-profit organization that provides free services including food, clothing, medical
care, legal assistance and social services to over 10,000 vulnerable DC residents each month. Bread for the City
operates a legal clinic at both its Northwest and Southeast Washington centers. Volunteer and staff attorneys
provide free legal advice and representation in areas of landlord/tenant, family, and disability law. For more
information, visit www.breadforthecity.org.


Crowell and Moring LLP
Crowell & Moring LLP is a full-service law firm with nearly 350 lawyers practicing in litigation, antitrust,
government contracts, corporate, intellectual property and more than 40 other practice areas. More than two-thirds
of the firm's lawyers regularly litigate disputes on behalf of domestic and international corporations, start-up
businesses, and individuals. Crowell & Moring's extensive client work ranges from advising on one of the world's
largest telecommunications mergers to representing governments and corporations on international arbitration
matters. Based in Washington, D.C., the firm also has offices in California, New York, London, and Brussels. Visit
Crowell & Moring online at http://www.crowell.com.
                                                       #   #   #
For more information about the case, or to set up an interview with a tenant or lawyer, please contact Adrienne
Ammerman at Aammerman@breadforthecity.org or 202-386-7609.

				
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