On December 15th officials for the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) reached an agreement with Mount Vernon Plaza Associates L.L.P, which allows tenants in previously rent-restricted units to apply for a new program for “very low income” and “low-income” families. According to the agreement, the owner of Mount Vernon Plaza is not allowed to charge any more that 30% of the 50% area median income for the Washington, D.C. area for 63 set-aside units. Furthermore, tenants will be eligible to receive a refund of the “amount of rent collected that was in excess of the difference between the set-aside rent and the market rent.”
The agreement also stipulates that management for Mount Vernon Plaza Apartments must notify all the tenants in the previously rent-restricted units of the new program including individuals that have vacated the property. However, to this day, only ten tenants have received notices.
“It is outrageous that management expects us to wait to be notified of this program while we continue to pay the rent increase,” says Quitel Andrews, member of Mount Vernon Plaza Tenant Association. “In fact, we were threatened with legal action if we stopped paying the rent increase. Most of us could potentially be refunded for the money we have struggled to pay for the last year. Meanwhile city officials are using our story as a PR campaign, which does a complete disservice to us. We organized for the last year to get this point. For city officials to fail to hold the owner accountable feels like a slap in the face.”
“Most of us had to take a second job to be able to afford the 50% rent increase. Now they are telling us the rental housing preservation program is for very-low income and low-income families, says Danielle, a resident of Mount Vernon Plaza Apartments for the last 11 years. “I am worried that I will not qualify for the program.”
“It was a very difficult decision to leave Mount Vernon Plaza in the dead beat of winter with a child. The decision to end the program should have been given a year in advance. The increase would have taken so much away from me as a single mother. Why do developers get a break and not the tenants?”
City officials negotiated the land lease sale date as well as the remaining $3.35 million on a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) loan in order to subsidize the new Rental Housing Preservation Program. Under the new agreement, the owner applies payments that would have been made to DHCD towards the subsidy. Upon the execution of the new promissory note, the sale of land will be considered complete and the remainder of the lease is nullified.
WHO: Mount Vernon Plaza Tenant Association
WHAT: New Rental Housing Preservation Program
WHEN: Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Marybeth Onyeukwu, ONE DC Organizer
Quitel Andrews, Member of the Mount Vernon Plaza Tenant Association
ABOUT ONE DC: ONE DC (formerly Manna CDC) was founded in 1997 in the midst of neighborhood change. From early on, ONE DC's approach to community development addressed structural causes of poverty and injustice, an orientation that stemmed from deep analysis of race, power, and the economic, political, and social forces at work in Shaw and the District. As a result, ONE DC’s organizing work centers on popular education, community organizing, and alternative economic development projects.