On a steamy summer night, Paulette Matthews took WUSA9 on a tour of what’s left of Barry Farm, her home for almost 20 years.
Residents are being relocated ahead of the city’s $13 million redevelopment project. Hundreds have already left. Out of 432 households, only 200 remain.
Their vacant units are boarded up and chained. Matthews said many left because living conditions got so bad like overrun by rats and bed bugs, despite the Housing Development’s promise to maintain repairs on the property in the meantime.
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“Looking around no, I don’t want to live here, but I've lived through this so when you come and fix it up I should be able to live through that," she said.
DC Housing Authority has a plan to relocate residents to other public housing units – like The Highlands a mile and a half away – or give them a voucher to rent privately. The deal is residents will get first priority to return to the new mixed use development, but Matthews is not buying it.
“It’s not really about Barry Farm because I've had good time and bad times at Barry Farm, it’s about the principal," she said. “I don’t believe the promise (from the city residents can return) and the promise comes too late. It can take 10 to get something done, but if we stay here, we force them to act quickly. To knock us here and there like we're plants or animals you can just uproot, it’s devastating. The city cares more about money than people.”