BU-GATA, a multi-issue organization, began as a volunteer tenant organization in the Gates of Arlington apartment complex in 1992. The tenants, a majority of whom are Latino, were facing displacement from one of the complexes in the Buckingham neighborhood. This neighborhood comprised over 1,400 private market garden-style rental units located within walking distance of Arlington’s metro system. Beginning in 1992, Latinos organized to demand representation before Arlington County officials and defend their housing interests before landlords and developers threatening to demolish their units. No other organization in Arlington was meeting the needs of this burgeoning immigrant population.
As the organization grew, residents began to broaden BU-GATA’s focus to include community stability and, in 1998, addressed another neighborhood need – youth leadership development – by creating the Buckingham Youth Brigade (BYB).
BU-GATA developed and created the Buckingham Youth Brigade (BYB), an after-school program for teenagers, ages 14-18. BYB began to function in 1998. BYB was founded to provide the teens of the Buckingham Neighborhood apartment complexes a weekly after-school activity and a way to focus their creative and intellectual energies towards their community. The program serves to build self-esteem, civic responsibility, and leadership skills among youth.
In 2010 BU-GATA started the Junior BYB program for elementary and middle school students. From inception, BU-GATA has tenants at its core focus while also working to remove barriers and obstacles that affect the Latino and immigrant community.
BU-GATA strives to educate tenants about housing issues, hold workshops for tenants, and help resolve daily concerns, such as landlord/tenant issues, access to services, securing relocation payments and other housing-related benefits. BU-GATA has a series of initiatives, including a County-wide Latino agenda, to increase the visibility of, and advocate for Latinos at the County level. One goal has been to secure more bi-lingual services for the growing Latino population. Prior to our advocacy work, the County did not provide translators at public hearings nor did they have any Spanish documents on their web site.
Through our outreach programs, BU-GATA identifies issues that affect the Latino and immigrant community. In October 2013, BU-GATA conducted the first-ever Latino-led community forum in which the community came together to discuss issues that affect their daily life and living in Arlington.
1995-Present Secured thousands of dollars in relocation benefits for residents facing forced displacement in Arlington multi-family complexes
Since 1995, Buckingham neighborhood has maintained a high level of socioeconomic diversity and has preserved 1,217 affordable and workforce housing units due to BU-GATA’s and its tenant’s advocacy efforts
Created and monitored project-specific tenant subsidy funds to allow low-income households to continue to live in rental housing where rent costs escalated after renovation
Prevented hundreds of tenants from being evicted from their units by negotiating with landlords and managing individual tenant cases after tenants received notices to vacate
Worked in partnership with Arlington County officials to craft monitoring programs to ensure the preservation of communities where low-income households were forced to relocate because of demolition and/or renovation of older multi-family complexes
Convinced Arlington County to provide $500,000 in targeted homeownership funds (MIPAP) to allow six-seven households that earn between 60-80% of Area Median Income to purchase homes in Arlington County
BU-GATA and its tenants helped negotiate relocation plans that benefit long-term low-income residents, a majority of whom are immigrants, to ensure that they can return to live in renovated units after a new developer decided to renovate and/or demolish multi-family rental units.
2014 BU-GATA’s Executive Director, Saul Reyes, has been a key member and contributor to the Affordable Housing Study and was appointed by the County Board and County Manager to the Affordable Housing Study Working Group. Through this appointment, BU-GATA further advocates production of housing to meet the community’s need.
2003 language access advocacy led to county services provision in a person’s home language and premium pay advocacy if certified as a Spanish language speaker
In 2018, BU-GATA completed the MARKs at-risk database to help monitor market rate affordable housing that are at-risk of demolitions and redevelopment with the goal to mitigate displacement. BU-GATA’s mission is to educate tenants about their rights, encourage civic engagement in the planning process, and advocate for affordable housing.
Since obtaining the Tenant and Outreach Education contract, BU-GATA has been able to minimize displacement in market-rate affordable housing complexes that were set to be demolished or redeveloped. BU-GATA intervened to conduct outreach with the goal to educate tenants of their rights, plans for the property, and encourage engagement in the planning process. Outreach also helped BU-GATA acquire information from tenants about the housing conditions and identify tenant needs and issues to then advocate on the tenants’ behalf.
BU-GATA has been involved in the planning and relocation process for several housing projects in the County, including market rate and affordable housing complexes. BU-GATA has been able to aid tenants in the relocation process to ensure that the relocation guidelines, their rights and needs are met. BU-GATA has also helped tenants obtain information on housing opportunities to retain the community in the County and avoid displacement.
In 2019, BU-GATA began meeting with Serrano Apartment tenants to discuss poor living conditions and management/maintenance. BU-GATA embarked in a two-year case at the Serrano Apartments, advocating for the tenants and one-on-one case management to pressure ownership and management staff to improve the living conditions and company’s culture. BU-GATA’s role was to educate in tenant rights and leadership development to create neighborhood leaders that will connect residents to assistance and advocacy. In the leadership development and advocacy, BU-GATA was able to get AHC Inc and AHC Management to evaluate the company’s’ culture and customer service, collaborate with County staff and leadership to understand and see the poor living conditions, and demand for the rights of Serrano tenants to a better quality of life that meets Arlington County’s affordable housing standards. This effort thus has transcended to other affordable housing in Arlington and the County is now implementing efforts to ensure that rental housing is safe and decent and to standards.
The COVID pandemic was a difficult time and led BU-GATA to adapt to better safely serve residents. BU-GATA implemented new communication methods to communicate to residents of COVID related information, public assistance programs, and case management. The established Promotora networks were helpful in disseminating information to marginalized residents. Promotoras and BU-GATA were able to transit useful information and resources to residents and helped residents obtain emergency assistance and donations during the pandemic. Due to the high unemployment and increased emergency assistance demands, BU-GATA collaborated with Arlington Thrive to process referrals and provide emergency assistance to vulnerable families. The pandemic was a difficult time that led to positive changes to better serve and protect Arlington residents and ensure that their needs were met to provide a high quality of life.
Buckingham Youth Brigade Accomplishments
In 2000, the youth designed, painted and installed a public multi-cultural mural on the side of Glebe Market, a Latino grocery store that is a stable landmark within the community.
In 2008, met with County Board and spoke at County Budget hearings to ask for wireless internet to be installed in County Community Center where group meets for homework. Project was approved and wireless was installed
In 2009, the students continued to attend budget hearings and meet with the County Parks and Recreation Department to propose installation of community computer lab including a printer in Lubber Run Community Center. Project was improved and computers were installed in the center.
In 2009, the youth facilitated and wrote, Who Are Arlington’s Immigrants, a report on the issues and needs of Arlington’s immigrants. In this report students interviewed several Arlington Immigrants from various origins with the goal of discovering what needs were not being addressed. This project resulted in a number of presentations to community members and County officials including reports to the Arlington County Housing Commission and Arlington County Board.
2009-Buckingham was going to be torn down and BU-GATA tenants formed a coalition with other stakeholders saved complex with historic designation.
In 2010 the BYB teens, facilitated and wrote, What’s Good A-Town, a report researching and highlighting four core areas of interest to Arlington’s teens: Youth Jobs, Volunteer Opportunities, Leisure activities and Career and Education Goals. This project resulted in an expanded knowledge in what Arlington County already offers that is unknown to the teen population as well as discovering unmet needs of teens. The students met with Arlington County Board Members and several County Departments to share these needs and discuss ways in which they could be met.
Nominated and awarded with the James B. Hunter Award in 2011 from Arlington County, a prestigious Human Rights Award.
William Silva, received the James B Hunter Human Rights award (before 2004)
2013 two countywide Community Forums with police and county reps in partnership with county
In 2011, the Junior Buckingham Youth Brigade conducted a series of interviews and community assessments to discover outdoor recreational needs of youth in the neighborhood. This assessment resulted in partnering with Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation to aid in the design of an up and coming park to ensure it is more youth friendly.
In 2011 and 2012, BYB designed and painted a three part mural series and mosaic frieze in their new community center the Cesar Chavez Community Center (opened in 2012).
In 2013, BU-GATA and BYB celebrated the 15th year anniversary of the Buckingham Youth Brigade.
In 2012 and 2013, the BYB Assistant Coordinator and Coordinator, respectively, received the Arlington County Connect with Kids award.
2000 maintained Lubber Run, volleyball and basketball court walking distance of neighborhood kept neighborhood from being a play desert