A 2003 article on housing troubles for Salvadorans in the Arlandria area, also known as Chirilagua, noted a cooperative, the Arlandria Chirilagua Housing Cooperative, as one of the leaders in a movement to stop the problem of rising rents in the area. I decided to check on the housing co-op to see how things were going, and if it was still viewed as an aid in housing for low-income families. Jon Liss was President at the time of Tenants’ and Workers’ Support Committee, now Tenants and Workers United, and this committee helped set up the co-op. Interestingly, an Alexandria Times article notes that, in 2006, Tenants and Workers United dropped its advisory support, noting a unhappiness with the governing body at Arlandria Chirilagua Housing Cooperative.
Apparently, after a 2005 board election, co-op residents started noticing changes. Maintenance of the building declined, while rents and utilities increased. In other words, the co-op became exactly what it was supposed to oppose. Residents who were interviewed pointed to Kathleen Henry, a member of the board whom reenters believed was illegitimately elected. The same article notes that–while an election had occurred–Henry’s position and management of money was questionable. The co-op was struggling with it finances.
A 2008 article in Washington City Paper notes these struggles as well, specifically reporting on a protest held by many residents because of rising rents and evictions. Mesfun Berhane explained residents’ issues with the board. At issue for residents were rising rents combined with an inability to vote for board members if they did not pay their rent. Three families accused the board as “running the coop like a dictatorship.” Apparently, one tactic employed by the board was to cut off hot water to certain apartments.
A decade later, the Arlandria-Chirilagua Housing Cooperative was not what it was when it was first envisioned in 1995. Both of these articles indicate a change of power within its management, but it has been difficult to find any news on how things are going currently in the co-op. I will take no news as good news for the residents of Arlandria-Chiriliagua Housing Cooperative. I was able to visit the co-op last weekend. Foolishly, the photo below was the only one I took.
- Chris Jenkins, “A Cooperative Effort to Make Homes Cheaper; Arlandria-Chirilagua Complex Offers Solution to Growing Crisis in Housing,” The Washington Post, April 24, 2003.
- “The Rebirth of Real Cooperation,” Alexandria Times, December 3, 2009, http://alextimes.com/2009/12/the-rebirth-of-real-cooperation/, accessed 11/19/2015.
- Sarah Godfrey, “Tenants of Alexandria Co-op Protest Rent Increase, Cold Water Baths,” Washington City Paper, May 15, 2008, http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2008/05/15/tenants-of-alexandria-co-op-protest-rent-increase-cold-water-baths/.