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Museum Square residents are the latest to face potential eviction in the District’s ongoing gentrification efforts. (Photo by Shantella Y. Sherman )

The expiration of an affordable housing contract with Chinatown’s Museum Square apartments is the latest in a series of large scale housing developments throughout the country, slated to evict tenants unable to pay rent without vouchers.

A tenant advisory, used to protest the housing discrepancy, said roughly half of Chinatown’s remaining Chinese immigrant population lives in the 302-unit building. More than half of the tenants are Chinese; the rest Black. The building’s site-based Section 8 contract expired on Oct. 1, but most individuals using Section 8 tenant vouchers, under D.C. law, are supposed to be allowed to remain in their homes, paying the same rent as they have been – as long as their incomes remain the same. Property owners have refused to honor the vouchers, instead issuing a memo to tenants stating that as of Oct. 1, they would “be required to bear the entire cost of monthly rent.”

The situation mirrors the displacement of people of color from long-held city dwellings in areas, including D.C., Brooklyn, London and Germany.

Similar standoffs have arisen in areas like Harlem, where entire neighborhoods utilizing vouchers, emptied and transformed seemingly overnight from working-class enclaves into luxury zip codes, replete with renamed geographies, Whole Foods stores, and dog parks. In Houston 17,000 residents depend on the vouchers; another 60,000 are on the waiting list. In North Carolina, mayors from two neighboring cities – Chapel Hill and Carrboro – pleaded with local landlords to continue accepting federal housing vouchers as affordable housing dwindled; and the D.C. Housing Choice Voucher programs currently assists 10,500 families in the city; with thousands more on the waiting list.

Meanwhile, as a reliance on housing vouchers grows, trust in elected officials to challenge building owners and developers has all but ended. In a 2014 statement to the D.C. Council, for instance, housing activist Eugene Puryear, questioned the commitment of city leaders in maintaining and developing new affordable housing with the body’s budgetary push for new streetcars, rather than affordable housing.

“The Local Rent Supplement program was supposed to create 1,000 new affordable units each year,” Puryear said. “By 2012, it had a 5,200-unit backlog, but we see every year that the Council wants to add a little increase and get a pat on the back even though they are already behind the 8-ball and are not dealing with the original intent, or the backlog that they, themselves, have created.”

According to the {Washington Post}, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson announced, last year, an overhaul of the city legislature that was designed to focus lawmakers on affordable housing and homeless issues in 2015.

Carletta Shank is one of the thousands of District residents who faced eviction in 2010 when her 2-bedroom apartment along the Southeast Navy Yard became a lucrative investment for developers looking to anchor the Nationals Stadium project.

“It became clear that the residents were standing in the way of business, so we all became expendable,” said Shank, a college graduate, working an entry-level job as a paralegal. “That building was filled with working-class people, who earned modest livings. They were law-abiding Americans and were forced from their homes . . . and now it’s happening throughout the city and across the nation.”