Everyone renting or contemplating renting an apartment in the District of Columbia should read up on the brewing faceoff covered in “Split Decision” (2/20). Many District renters—on paper at least—have a right to buy their apartments when owners put their buildings up for sale. This right was watered down by a 1994 amendment to the original legislation—a loophole that has since been exploited on hundreds of occasions by developers and their cronies simply to circumvent tenants’ right of first refusal.
I truly feel for the residents of 1816 Kalorama Road NW, whose building was surreptitiously sold in one of the “95/5” partial transfers sanctioned by the loophole. A year after that deal was inked, the same thing happened where I live, at the Capitol Park Apartments, a 648-unit complex in Southwest.
Life has never been the same. On balance, life has gotten a lot worse, especially for the long-term residents here and people who live or work at home during the day.
In our case, the new owners also got the D.C. Housing Finance Agency (HFA) to plunk down $30 million in tax-exempt bond financing to seal the deal. The HFA’s involvement, in turn, had the consequence of taking Capitol Park out of rent stabilization and stripped the tenants of certain protections they formerly had under the aegis of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).
Meanwhile, the DCRA signed off on an invasive, ill-conceived, and ill-wrought 18-month-long rehabilitation of the buildings.
Perhaps fearful of admitting any culpability or liability for enabling this shameful boondoggle, neither of the city agencies involved in this debacle has come to the defense of the beleaguered residents of the buildings. Not surprisingly, many residents at Capitol Park have “lawyered up,” and their cases are working themselves through the courts.