DC Residents Today Share Stories of Affordable Housing Victories, Struggles on “Before and After” Neighborhood Tour

July 11, 2011

A guest blog from Ash Kosiewicz, Latino Economic Development Corporation. Check out their post here.

In the District of Columbia, the journey that many residents embark upon to ensure they have a decent, affordable place to live for the future often starts with a finely-worded letter and a 45-day window of opportunity.

Lynn Welters - Brightwood Gardens Cooperative

 

For Lynn Welters and Oscar Moreno – presidents of the Brightwood Gardens Cooperative and the 1333 Euclid St NW Tenants Association, respectively – both received the letter explaining that their apartment buildings had been put up for sale and that they had 45 days to respond and declare their intention to take control of their housing.

For Lynn, it was an opportunity to save the home where she had lived since the age of 11 with her parents. For Oscar, it was a chance to save the home where he had lived for almost 10 years and continue living in the neighborhood.

Years later, Lynn and her neighbors are proud homeowners after working together to purchase their apartment building in 2006 with city funds just before the District’s funding well dried up. For Oscar’s tenant association, which received the letter just three months ago, their journey is just beginning.

“It was a huge sense of pride,” Lynn says, recalling the bonds that had formed between the low-income residents who liked the area and the affordable rents. “Many of us had been long or life-time renters, so it was the very first time we could say, ‘We own something.’”

In advance of the 4th Annual Citywide Tenant Town Hall this Saturday, Lynn and Oscar are participating this afternoon in the Latino Economic Development Corporation’s “Before and After” Neighborhood Tour of four multi-family apartment buildings in Columbia Heights and Petworth.

The tour will give participants a glimpse into the stories of two groups of DC residents: residents who have successfully purchased their apartment buildings using the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act as well as residents who have recently formed tenant associations and want to buy their buildings. Although residents like Oscar at more than 75 apartment buildings citywide have received notices of sale since September, there are currently no public funds to help tenant associations facing displacement to acquire loans to buy their buildings.

In April, Oscar and his neighbors got the letter. The residents formed a tenant association in May and are seeking legal assistance to help negotiate an agreement to buy the building. By purchasing the building, the residents hope to reverse years of poor housing conditions, illegal rent increases, and attempts by the owner to push them out with one-time buyouts.

“We don’t want to leave,” Moreno says. “We have all worked in Washington for a long time, and we want to continue living in the building.”

In addition to the Brightwood Cooperative and 1333 Euclid St NW, the tour will visit the 710 Jefferson St NW in Petworth and the Quest Cooperative in Columbia Heights at 1428 Euclid St NW. Click here for more details.

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