Attacking Slum Apartments, Big and Small

DC Crackdown Nets 5,000 Code Violations; City Vows More Inspections

By Tom Sherwood
|  Thursday, Dec 10, 2009  |  Updated 7:46 PM EDT
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Crackdown on DC Slum Housing

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Crackdown on DC Slum Housing

City leaders snag more than 5,000 code violations through a pro-active approach to apartment inspections.
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It was just one of those four-unit apartment buildings you see all over town, but this one had mailboxes hanging off the wall, cracked glass windows and black plastic bags as "insulation" for one window.

"People think about the large buildings" when they think of slums, said Linda Argo, the director of the city's consumer and regulatory affairs department. "But there are hundreds of small buildings" that also have many problems.

Argo was speaking on a cold midday in Anacostia on V Street SE where she, Mayor Adrian Fenty and D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said a months-long crackdown since June has resulted in 5,000 housing code violations. The city is not waiting for tenant complaints, but inspecting buildings throughout the District.

"And over the next 3 years, we're going to inspect every facility in this town," said Nickles, who at one point became so worked up he cursed.

Nickles almost shouted when he said that landlords had ignored or dodged cleanups for years, but not anymore.

He said the landlords now think, "Well goddamnit maybe we better fix the housing; maybe we ought to avoid going to jail. Maybe we ought to do right by the tenants."

And then Nickles launched into more street slang about the city's effort.

"We have cred on the street. We've got attitude. We've got credibility and we're going to make it stick."

Fenty wasn't quite so fired up, but he said the slum crackdown is part of his effort to make neighborhoods more livable, and he likened it to a similar crackdown on illegal used car lots and unlicensed businesses.

"It's just a real travesty how a small, select group of landlords treat their buildings and the people who live in them," Fenty told reporters.

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