WASHINGTON -- With Washington’s Entertainment and Sports Arena now open, a Congress Heights neighborhood commissioner is worried about his neighborhood’s next act. “The city's changing quickly and this is the last frontier for the District of Columbia,” said Mike Austin.
Austin welcomes the new arena and future development, but said, he already knows how this is going to end because on what he's seen in DC neighborhoods on the other side of the river in Chinatown and the Navy Yard, which has pushed out longtime neighbors.
“They understand a project like this is not for them, but for newcomers,” said Austin.
Since 2016, Austin has been pushing for city council to pass several bills protecting Congress Heights residents in Ward 8, the city's poorest ward.
In a letter to city leaders, Austin demanded an increase to the Schedule H Tax Credit to help offset what he called the inevitable hike in rental rates and property taxes, as well as funding for nonprofits working to keep residents from being displaced.
“They need to move forward on this and the council is just dragging their feet,” said Austin.
Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White did not respond to WUSA9’s request for an interview.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said, work is underway to help people living in Congress Heights, including 202 affordable housing units being developed across from the arena, several workforce academies helping train people for work in the public and private sector, as well as grants for small businesses in Wards 8 and 7.
“It's no secret. The city once was a chocolate city, but it is changing. Change is good, but, we need to do more to protect residents who have been here for a long time,” said Austin.