Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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With east-of-the river neighborhoods like Anacostia and Congress Heights slated to see economic development in the coming years, D.C. officials today announced a new pilot program designed to preserve affordable housing in Ward 8.

The intiative will make landlords of small multifamily properties in the ward eligible for low-interest-rate loans from the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development. The loans—of up to $25,000 per unit for a total of 10 units in a single building—would have to be used to renovate rental units in disrepair. As a first step, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs will inspect buildings to ensure landlords are in “good standing” with regulations and taxes, Mayor Muriel Bowser said. The $3 million pilot is being funded by the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund, which maintains affordable housing. The pilot will go until the end of fiscal year 2016, or September 30, the mayor said.

“We get very frustrated by the scofflaws in the world, Bowser said. “This program is not really set up for the scofflaws.”

DHCD Director Polly Donaldson explained that the loans will have interest rates from zero to three percent; repayment schedules will be determined as part of individual agreements with landlords. Once the loans are given, the District will put a 40-year affordability covenant on the relevant units, she said. This will help keep current Ward 8 residents in their neighborhoods, Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May said. (May is up for reelection in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary.) Donaldson added that, as with all loans DHCD gives out, the department will examine landlords’ credit-worthiness.

“The terms we’re starting with are by unit and by building,” Bowser replied when asked if well-resourced developers could take advantage of the program. “I don’t know if we’re going to restrict by an owner that has multiple buildings.”

According to the administration, the eligibility requirements include:

  • “Multi-family rental building with fewer than 50 units
  • Possess a DCRA Inspection Report less than 10 business days old
  • No defaulted or delinquent loans with DHCD
  • No pending litigation in the District of Columbia
  • Current on all D.C. taxes”

Donaldson said that protections for residents’ relocation and return after renovations would be part of each agreement.