Apparently not if the Museum Square project is any indication. See the link for some history. This is a tragic story on many levels made more so by the office of DC's newly elected Mayor, Muriel Bowser, more on that later. More than half of the residents of this 30 year old building on the edge of DC's Chinatown are the last of DC's Chinese population that once lived, worked and thrived in a vibrant Chinese neighborhood that has since been taken over by chain restaurants like Hooters and Fuddruckers. Affordable housing has disappeared being replaced by high end apartments and condos. The other residents of the building are an ethnically diverse group that shares the need to maintain affordable living space in the city. The owner and developer, The Bush Companies of Virginia have given notice that they are ending the subsidized housing program with HUD and will demolish the building making way for an expensive mixed use residential/commercial building. Before they can do that they are required by law to offer to sell the building to the current tenants. The developer has calculated that each unit is worth $830,000. Let's see, I'm on a fixed income living in a rent subsidized apartment and I'm told I can buy it for $830,000. Such a deal! What kind of insanity is this?
There is a story in today's Washington Post that brings the story up to date and describes the DC City Government's wholly inadequate response. Councilwoman Anita Bonds wants to tinker with the law that requires developers to offer to sell the property to the tenants. She believes that the valuation should be based on current property values not projected values upon project completion. The Developer of course disagrees. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who campaigned vigorously with promises to make affordable housing a priority as well as allowing senior citizens to age in place, is as usual absent from the discussion. No doubt she is occupied with luring the billionaire owner of DC's NFL team to relocate into the city.
Why isn't the city intervening in this matter. Why not negotiate a deal with the developer to buy the building and allow the tenants to stay. And here's a novel idea - why not a moratorium on high end residential apartments and condos until such time that truly affordable housing can be constructed for all those who need it.