By Rasheed Van Putten
It was late October 2017 when the former owner of my building told me that he wanted to sell the building. I immediately expressed interest, and requested that he send the proper paperwork, an Offer of Sale, as required by the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). Verbally the building owner would agree to send this document, but in deed his true intentions were clear.
The building owner's failure to provide an opportunity for the tenants to purchase the building was apparent and highlighted on February 17, 2018 when he appeared at my doorstep unannounced with a waiver that he wanted me to sign immediately. Of course I refused and took the waiver to ONE DC and Office of the Tenant Advocate. I was advised during free counsels by both organizations not to sign the waiver. After some discussion, both organizations were able to clearly identify that the TOPA process was not yet in motion.
|113 Wayne Place SE|
We soon found out that the building went up for sale in October 2017. An illegal sale of the building had occurred. I was advised to file a formal complaint with the Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD). After confirming OHCD's mailing address and email address, I used certified mail and email to file my complaint. I received an auto-reply stating someone would follow up with me within 24 hours.
After three days I decided to visit OHCD in-person. I was told that neither of my complaints were received even though we agreed that I had the proper mailing information. The OHCD employee that I spoke to agreed that my TOPA rights were violated, but tried to convince me that the sale of the building was not illegal. She advised me against forming a tenant association and assured me that it was best to file a lawsuit to receive compensation.
Collaboration between local government and housing developers is no secret to most concerned citizens and has even been reported on by news media. This is a conspiracy against the working class Black people in DC, especially those in poverty.
We, the tenants, need ownership of the building at 113 Wayne Place SE to protect ourselves by assuming our God-given right to exercise self-determination. To control of our own affairs is the only way we will build a stronger community. Please support this effort to be an example of economic democracy.
Housing is a human right, so please heed this call for community control over housing and land in Washington, DC and other gentrifying cities!