It would be a pity if that happens, because the development project got off to a good start with Bowser’s October 2018 announcement of the first-ever multimillion-dollar tax increment financing (TIF) in Anacostia. TIF is a city-provided subsidy for projects financed by borrowing against future tax receipts.
One month after Bowser’s announcement, the D.C. Council’s Finance and Revenue Committee, chaired by Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), held a
public hearing on Bowser’s bill. The bill, however, died in committee, and the TIF expired at the end of last year, because Ward 8 council member Trayon White Sr. (D) asked Evans not to move the bill forward. Evans told me he acted out of courtesy to a colleague in whose ward the project was located. White had his own ideas about who should win or lose in his ward.
All was quiet until May 21, when Bowser (D) issued a news release from Las Vegas where she and other city officials, including White, were attending a real estate convention. Bowser unveiled a revised Reunion Square agreement that her administration had worked out with White, the developers, including Curtis Investment Group, and council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), chairman of the council’s Committee on Business and Economic Development.
The new deal reshaped the old deal to White’s liking.
Gone from the revised
project was Ward 8’s first-ever hotel, a 180-room structure, and the job-training and career-development opportunities it was supposed to bring. Gone, too, was 58 percent of the TIF subsidy. But the deal provides more housing for seniors and added space to house some Ward 8 businesses.
Unimpressed, a group of residents and community activists are circulating a petition slamming the new deal as a “detriment to the Anacostia community.”
Both city officials and community stakeholders, however, were apparently in the dark about what was going on with Curtis Investment.
I’m reliably told that on June 20, the Office the D.C. Attorney General received examples of purportedly discriminatory advertising by Curtis. The OAG said it found that two Curtis properties were employing discriminatory ads, suggesting a pattern or practice of wrongful conduct. The OAG found sufficient basis to file a complaint and seek a preliminary injunction to stop Curtis from engaging in alleged discriminatory practices against low-income renters who used D.C.-provided subsidies such as housing vouchers. The complaint also alleged that Curtis did not take payments from the city’s rapid housing program, which moves homeless people into rent-subsidized apartments. A lawyer for Curtis Investment said the company declined to comment on pending litigation.
A D.C. Superior Court judge, concluding that the lawsuit was “substantially likely to succeed,”
granted the injunction, ordering Curtis to remove discriminatory language from its advertisements and to quit refusing to rent apartments to people receiving housing assistance.
The lawsuit is now in the discovery phase, and the court is expected to set a schedule for the case soon, an OAG spokesman said this week.
Racine told The Post after he filed the lawsuit that “discrimination still makes it hard for too many people to find safe and affordable places to live.” City officials should be aware of that, too.
How the mayor and council members didn’t know that a company that allegedly discriminates against D.C. subsidized low-income residents was also one of the parties sitting across the table negotiating a lucrative D.C.-funded contract, is, if true, a mystery.
McDuffie told me the allegation against Curtis Investment was deeply disturbing and he was pleased the city “pushed the pause button” on the project.
Contacted on Thursday, a Bowser administration spokeswoman noted that the city had halted negotiations when it got word of the OAG’s lawsuit and stressed “the administration has not determined if it will wait until the lawsuit is resolved.”
Plow ahead without resolution of the housing discrimination lawsuit against Curtis Investment?
Yet another D.C. government mystery.