Columbia Gardens tenants speak out

TN Long reports on the ongoing struggle by Columbia Gardens tenants against mass evictions triggered by a wave of gentrification stemming from Amazon’s new HQ2 site

La ColectiVA, an immigrant rights group in Arlington, VA, serving the local Latin American community, hosted a vigil outside the Columbia Gardens apartments for the remaining two families at the apartment building who were unable to move out by March 31, the time set in their eviction notices.

Also in attendance that evening were representatives from the Northern Virginia club of the Communist Party USA, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, New Virginia Majority, and legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild.

The residents of the Columbia Gardens apartments were served with eviction notices mid-February by their landlord, Merion Companies, which is looking to demolish the complex and replace it with more expensive units.

This has become commonplace in the rapid gentrification wave across Northern Virginia with the Amazon HQ2 site in Arlington as the epicenter.

Luz Tobar, a La ColectiVA organizer, explained while most resident families had secured new housing and moved, the remaining two have move-in dates set from late April to May and only need time.

One family was offered a nearby unit owned by the Columbia Gardens landlord, Merion Companies, but it was reported to be uninhabitable due to mold and vermin infestations.

Such complaints by residents are frequent and ignored by Merion Companies in typical slumlord fashion. The residents, many undocumented Central American immigrants, told of how Merion Companies often retaliated by reporting residents to ICE or the local Arlington police to scare them into submission.

Current and former residents in attendance took turns at the microphone detailing how the mold and vermin infestations caused health issues, stress, and disrupted their work and children’s educations, as well as how the evictions and moving have caused great pain to their families and community.

They spoke of the immense pain of harassment by ICE and police, and they had great affection for the solidarity with their neighbors in their shared struggle for basic dignity from their landlord. They also lamented the increased cost of living, as gentrification has accelerated since Amazon announced its HQ2 would be built in Arlington.

La ColectiVA has been seeking legal options to help the Columbia Gardens residents. They are currently consulting a law firm to see if they will take the residents case on contingency, as they are seeking compensation for the uninhabitable conditions in the building as well as a stay of eviction.

Additionally, La ColectiVA is a part of the ICE Out of Arlington Coalition, which has proposed a policy to end Arlington County’s government from collaborating with ICE, called  Communities of Arlington Protected from Abuse by ICE (“CAPA”).

For more information on La ColectiVA visit their site at

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