Billionaire Developer Urban Atlantic Responds to Bolton House Tenants Demanding an End to Slum Conditions
By Yasmina Mrabet
Urban Atlantic, billionaire owner of the Bolton House building at 1100 Bolton St. in West Baltimore has issued a response to the concerns and demands recently put into the public eye by the Bolton House Tenant Coalition and their organizing partners.
The two-page response is signed by one of their managing directors, Vicki Davis, and was sent to all residents of the 260 unit Bolton House building. This response follows a meeting held earlier this month by executives from Urban Atlantic and Edgewood Management, with residents and their supporters, at which owners were unable to account for the reasons why the building has fallen into disrepair over a period of years.
On May 14 of this year, residents and organizers went public with a campaign exposing a practice of slum landlordism by Urban Atlantic and Edgewood Management, corporations that have continued to collect rents and subsidies, while Bolton House tenants have lived with widespread toxic mold, insect and rodent infestations, trash pile ups, sewage backups, water leakages, and various other threats to the health and safety of the community.
Edgewood Management has additionally been implicated in mismanagement and slum conditions at Poe Homes in Baltimore, and more recently, Claiborne Apartments in Annapolis, a building complex from which residents recently reached out to LinkUp for assistance.
Edgewood Management, coincidentally, is one of the Ford Family Companies; a “sister” company to Mid-City Financial, the developer planning the “RIA” development at Brookland Manor in Northeast Washington, D.C., a proposed project that has already resulted in the loss of an entire city block of affordable housing stock, and the displacement of working class Washingtonian residents and families from Ward 5. In their attempts to clear the property of low-income residents ahead of “RIA,” Mid-City Financial has utilized its sister company, Edgewood Management, to play the role of identifying weaknesses in tenant living situations in order to formulate a basis for evictions, a practice that has been previously documented in a front page Washington Post article. More recently, conditions at Brookland Manor have begun deteriorating, with residents and families expressing concerns about a serious rat problem.
Elected officials in both Baltimore and D.C. have provided constituents with no comprehensible explanation for why they continue to leverage public money, and engage in business agreements with corporate entities that have known histories of practicing slum landlordism. However, in Baltimore and D.C., tenants and members of the public are becoming increasingly educated about the ways in which housing policies are coordinated by developers, and presented to the public by political representatives who routinely put developer profit interests ahead of the housing needs of the communities they claim to represent. The political backing of Mid-City Financial’s “RIA” plan at Brookland Manor in Northeast Washington, D.C. makes this point exceedingly clear.
Elected officials are therefore acting as representatives of developers, rather than of their actual constituents, the residents of the cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. If communities are to trust elected officials to make development decisions on their behalf, those decisions must be made based on the existing housing needs of residents. In other words, in the context of a housing crisis, city officials should only back redevelopment plans that are adjusted to ensure zero displacement, and an overall increase in affordable housing stock. These requirements should be placed on any and all redevelopments in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in order to move toward the eradication of homelessness and a total end of the housing crisis.
Based on the recent Basilica tenants win, as well as major successes with the Congress Heights campaign, ongoing community defense against displacement at Brookland Manor, ongoing work by Montana Terrace tenants who have exposed role of the D.C. Housing Authority in overseeing slum conditions in public housing, and the responses of Urban Atlantic and Edgewood Management to the tenants’ ongoing campaign, it is exceedingly clear that the only real means for ensuring that the housing needs of working class people are met, is by having those interests represented, first and foremost, in any negotiations that take place regarding developments and neighborhood changes, including any related use of public money.
In the case of Bolton House, while Urban Atlantic has made a written claim that the building "will remain affordable and there will be no impact on affordability from any adjacent development and construction," the implications of a looming $1.6 billion dollar redevelopment of the neighboring State Center tells the public otherwise, as does the major discrepancy between what the city defines as "affordable," based on area median income, and what is affordable based on real life for the average renter.