D.C. Residents Take Control of Rental Housing By Buying Building

by: Linda Poulson Special to the AFRO
/ (Photos by Linda Poulson) /
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A dilapidated affordable housing complex recently began renovation in Northwest D.C. after being purchased by tenants.

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Homestead Apartments in Northwest D.C. began renovations on Sept. 23rd. (Photos by Linda Poulson)

On Sept. 23 tenants, housing officials, and city officials gathered to preserve affordable housing at Homestead Apartments, located at 812 Jefferson St. NW, in the Brightwood Park area of Ward 4. “This is a groundbreaking, we just closed on the financing about a month and a half ago,” said Raymond L. Nix, president of Urban Matters, a District real estate and community development firm that was responsible for the project.

The welcome, invocation, and blessing were given by the Rev. Lionel Edmonds, pastor of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church on New Jersey Avenue NW, and co-founder of the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN).

Remarks were given by Patrick Harper, vice president of The Hampstead Group; Cynthia White, president of the Jefferson Homestead People United Tenant Association; Polly Donaldson, director of the District of Columbia Department of Housing and Community Development; Todd A. Lee, executive director of the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency; Bryan Dickson, director of Citi Community Capital; and Oramenta F. Newsome, vice president of Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

Greetings were also given by D.C. Councilmember Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4). “I couldn’t be more excited and delighted to be here this morning to break ground on the renovation and the preservation of 55 affordable units right here in Ward 4 at Brightwood Park,” Todd told the crowd. “Let’s give the preservation of affordable housing a big round of applause.”

In a recent study by CNBC, the District has one of the highest rental rates in the country. The income needed to pay rent is $119,271 with the average cost for renting a two-bedroom apartment being $2,783 dollars a month. The change from 2015 has increased by almost 4 percent.

“Initially we were hit with an 18 percent rent increase, so people were worried they had to move because they couldn’t afford to stay here,” said Cynthia White, a resident in the building. “Then the company decided to put the building up for sale, so taking a crash course in learning the TOPA (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act) process and getting everyone on board and organized was the biggest challenge.” The tenants organized with the Latino Economic Development Center and purchased the building.

Forty-five of the 55 units were capped at 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). Amenities were added that include countertop replacements, some apartments will get new kitchens, new appliances (stove, energy efficient refrigerators, microwaves), and bathroom fixtures. There will be a community room built in the basement for residential services and workshops. New washers and dryers will also be installed in the basement.

The renovation of the property is projected to finish in July 2017. “This whole process has taken about two years and many of the active residents living here in the building united to try to make something happen so we could remain as residents in this beautiful city,” said White. “We’re all very close now; it’s a close knit building.”

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