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DC Leaders react to poor housing conditions at Potomac Gardens

D.C.'s Housing Authority will launch a rapid response team to inspect the units.

WASHINGTON — One day after exposing dangerous and dirty conditions at Potomac Gardens public housing complex on Capitol Hill, small steps towards progress. The padlocks that the fire department deemed a code violation are off the gate and inspectors were making the rounds Thursday. 

“It’s a good sign and a bit of progress, but we need to stay on top of it!” said Thomasia Moore.  

Moore slipped the Mayor a letter at a news conference Monday. Mayor Muriel Bowser was outside the complex, celebrating giving the tenants free WIFI, while inside the units tenants showed WUSA9 they are living with mold, bugs, mice and rats.  

“The first sentence of that letter says we are in crisis we can’t wait,” said Moore.

So, we took her concerns straight to Mayor Muriel Bowser after a groundbreaking ceremony for new housing in Anacostia. 

“What would you say to that woman when she says, ‘we don’t need WIFI we need help?’,” WUSA9 asked.

“Well, I wouldn’t agree with that statement because everybody needs to be connected to jobs, to education, to healthcare so it’s not a one or the other issue,” responded Bowser. 

But Courtney Mills said her priority is providing a safe and sanitary home for her 4 children. She showed WUSA9 holes in the wall where mice have chewed through the wall, one hole behind her daughter’s dollhouse, another behind her son’s bed.

“I am raising smart, brilliant scholars but the kids are terrified,” said Mills, “this is constant trauma. We don’t want pest control we want pest elimination.”

Thomasia Moore showed us mold in her unit she usually keeps covered up with several layers of plastic. 

“Breathing in these spores we keep getting sicker and sicker,” she said.

Moore has resorted to now getting a cat to help control her mouse infestation.

“I guarantee you, everyone, who works at DCHA (DC Housing Authority), who’s profiting off our back, I’m sure they’re living in rat-free, mold free apartments and homes – look what we’re living in, we’re living in hell!” she said.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen said he spoke to DCHA’s new Director Brenda Donald.  

“One of the things I appreciate is she said she’ll be creating a rapid response unit to inspect every home,” explained the Councilmember.

“It’s deeply concerning there’s not a greater sense of urgency around health and safety for our residents and accountability for the dollars,” he added. “In Council, I helped put in $24 Million in the budget. I haven’t seen $24 Million worth of work, I don't think the residents have either.”

Bowser adds the federal government which controls most of the DC Housing Authority has failed to properly fund public housing over the years, but the city has invested $50 Million every year for the past 3 years. 

DCHA told WUSA9 Potomac Gardens is undergoing a $3.7 million improvement project. So far, that money has only paid for landscaping and new doors.

Mayor Bowser said inspections will determine if apartments are safe for tenants to live in. 

“If the unit is condemned, they would have to be moved and housing authority would have to find other housing within their resources, but we never rush to condemn a building because all that does is create a new problem with folks without a place to live,” explained Bowser.  

The next step is a meeting between city leaders and the tenants of Potomac Gardens who said they will not stop their fight for safe housing.

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