Any LL readers want a house in Chevy Chase? If so, LL knows a motivated seller: the University of the District of Columbia, which is considering dumping the presidential house that the school’s presidents don’t actually want to live in.
Lots of colleges and universities provide their presidents with housing, but it’s hard to imagine any of them bungling it as badly as the District’s public university. That’s because UDC’s house, at a roughly 10-minute, 2-mile drive to UDC’s Van Ness campus, is too far from the university for its presidents to live in it without exposing themselves to huge tax bills.
LL wrote about the empty presidential house last year, when interim president James E. Lyons opted to live downtown and pocket a nearly $6,000 monthly housing allowance. Lyons is gone now, but the house’s woes aren’t. The vacancy surfaced again last week, when the Council approved an employment contract for new UDC President Ronald Mason Jr., who, like his interim predecessor, still won’t live in the house at 3520 Rittenhouse St. NW.
Instead of residing in the presidential manse, Mason will pull down $7,000 a month in housing allowance, in addition to his $303,850 annual salary.
It’d be bad enough for the District to be on the hook for a $1.6 million house that sits empty. But the District has sunk much more than that into the house. Under spendthrift previous president Allen Sessoms, UDC spent nearly $500,000 on renovations for the house between 2007 and 2011, according to a 2011 Washington Post article. Apparently, $43,370 of upgraded cabinets and bookcases weren’t enough to lure later presidents.
But UDC’s—and by extension, the District’s—commitment to the house doesn’t end there. According to UDC documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the school has previously spent $45 a week on pest control at the house, along with $1,025 a year on a security system. (UDC spokesman Michael C. Rogers couldn’t provide the latest figures on housing expenses by press time.) That’s in addition to the $84,000 Mason will receive for opting not to live in the house.
Now the university is belatedly getting ready to dump the house—maybe. Rogers says members of UDC’s Board of Trustees are talking about getting a broker to consider what the school could get for selling the house.
“No determination has been made yet,” Rogers says.
An empty house isn’t among UDC’s biggest problems. That would be dumping majors like economics and physics, then narrowly avoiding budget cuts in the mayoral budget.
So let LL save the board the energy on this one. It’s time to set out an open house sign and get UDC out of the real estate business.
Photo via Google Maps