D.C.-based developer and property manager Urban Investment Partners is on a buying spree lately. Capitalizing on a rash of large multifamily foreclosures, they’ve added buildings in Adams Morgan, Petworth, and Columbia Heights to a quickly ballooning portfolio. A couple of them came from the crumbling empire of C.C. Dudley, who was squeezing his tenants last year with hardship petitions. The most recent purchases were no different: Three mid-sized apartment complexes bought at auction from the Tenacity Group, which had tried and failed to convert a larger group of them into condos during the boom.
For the tenants, having UIP swoop in is a sign of hope—-while Tenacity let the buildings deteriorate, resulting in reams of housing code violations and drawn-out litigation, the new landlord will at least bring them up to snuff enough to attract future tenants. But there’s still a large degree of uncertainty. At 26-unit 1430 W Street NW, for example, UIP may very well try to work a deal with tenants that would allow them to do a wholesale renovation and charge market rents for the extremely well-located apartments.
For the 12 or so tenants and families that remain in the building—-most of whom receive Section 8 vouchers—-that could mean getting bought out of their leases for a goodly chunk of change. It’s the job of their pro bono attorney, Blake Biles of the blue chip law firm Arnold & Porter, to make sure they get a fair deal. “I do think that it comes down to individual choice, ensuring that people make well-founded and not pressured decisions to leave,” Biles says.
If they stay, though, there’s no guarantee that everything goes smoothly. Around this time last year, tenants at Marbury Plaza in Ward 7 (which will soon belong to Ward 8) were thrilled to have UIP take over the management of their 670-unit complex* from a negligent remote landlord. But things have continued to go wrong, as tenant association president April Goggans described in March. More recently, Goggans has complained of faulty air conditioning, slow response times, and another murder on the premises that she blames in part on inadequate security.
With the help of a group of deep-pocketed investors out of New York City, principal Wout Coster says the company is still looking for more buildings to buy—-so if they come knocking at your apartment complex, don’t be surprised.
* Corrected to reflect the fact that UIP is only managing the building, having decided against buying it outright.