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D.C. Affordable Housing Victory Celebration, Tonight, January 28 | Real Estate

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D.C. Affordable Housing Victory Celebration, Tonight, January 28
Real Estate

This story comes to us from Ash Kosiewicz:


The Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) is organizing a Tenant Celebration, Talent Show, and Competition Cook-off at Trinity AME Zion Church from 6:30-9:00 pm tonight, Friday, January 28 to celebrate victories won by local tenant associations in 2010 to preserve affordable housing in the District of Columbia and make the case for why city officials should make affordable housing a priority in 2011.


Sharing their diverse talents and cooking skills that represent the bonds of community that sustained their work together, renters in the District will celebrate the fruits of their victories, including the Kenyon Street “Yes We Can” Housing Cooperative’s purchase of their apartment building in Columbia Heights. The event will showcase “We Own This!,” a new documentary profiling renters in the District who have used DC’s tenant purchase law – the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) – to save their housing and keep the District affordable amid pressures threatening DC’s dwindling affordable housing stock.


“During this time of limited city funds, the preservation of affordable housing is the most cost-efficient way to keep the District affordable, and renters who use TOPA to become owners are taking control of their quality of life and neighborhoods in the process,” said Farah Fosse, director of LEDC’s Affordable Housing Preservation Program.


In local apartment buildings, rents jumped 8.2 percent in 2010, according to Delta Associates, an Alexandria-based research firm. Census figures show that the number of people in rental households increased 12 percent locally between 2007 and 2009, with a complementary 5 percent climb in rents in the Washington region over the same period of time.


The Tenants Association of 1372 Kenyon St NW purchased their apartment building located in the heart of Columbia Heights after eight years of struggle and drawn out court battles. Surrounded by sky-rocketing housing costs, the tenant association is ensuring that their 18 apartments remain affordable and that residents maintain control over their housing despite significant condo development within blocks.


Twenty years prior, the tenant association had first used TOPA only to have their share of the building taken away. In the Spring of 2010, the tenants won the right to buy their building back at a much reduced price to become the sole owners of the building.


Tenants are also celebrating the long-term preservation of affordable housing units for tenants living at the Riggs Plaza apartment complex in Northeast DC. The Riggs Plaza apartments, a large property located close to the Fort Totten Metro, had been slated for redevelopment for several years, along with a large area of new commercial development and other spaces nearby. The property owner promised tenants that they could come back to the new units once they were completed but failed to give tenants any commitments in writing.


After several tenants had already relocated to temporary housing, it became clear that many tenants did not know whether they would have to pay more or would have the same amount of space that they had previously enjoyed within the renovated apartments. In the fall of 2009, tenants formed an association and started working with tenant organizers from LEDC and lawyers from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless to protect their rights. Several tenants refused to vacate their apartments until the property owner agreed to negotiate with the association. Tenants met with their councilmember and neighborhood ANC commissioners, who pledged their support. In the end, they won an agreement with the property owner for all the tenants, with written commitments protecting their rights.


“These apartments have always been under rent control,” said Ms. Caroline Gibbs, a Board member of the Riggs Plaza Tenant Association. “They’ve been very well maintained apartments, and people have enjoyed living here. A lot of people have lived here 20, 30, 40 years.” “It was a fight, but in the end, the outcome outweighed what we went through,” said Ms. Ruth Dupree, another Board member.


Tenants will also build support for proposed legislation that would regulate the use of the Nuisance Abatement Fund to ensure that it is used to preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement when there are serious housing code violations.


More info on the event: 

WHAT: Tenant Celebration, Talent Show, and Cook-Off

WHERE: Trinity AME Zion Church, 3505 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20010 (entrance on Oak St NW)

WHEN: Tonight! Friday, January 28th; 6:30 – 9 PM

WHO: Latino Economic Development Corporation; Tenants from across the city; Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham (invited); At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown (invited); Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas (invited); tenant leaders from the Kenyon “Yes We Can” Cooperative and the Riggs Plaza complex.

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