In late 2014, the residents of 812 Jefferson Street NW received a piece of certified mail, informing them of a rent increase of $200 a month. For most residents, the existing rent was already “barely affordable.”
Many of the residents of 812 Jefferson have lived in the neighborhood, if not the building, for decades, and the increase could have resulted in their displacement. Several residents reached out to the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) for help.
LEDC supported the residents as they organized into a tenant association to object formally to the landlord’s hardship petition. Shortly after, the residents were notified of the owner’s intent to sell.
Developers began approaching the tenants with promises of improved living conditions and stable rent. The 812 Jefferson Street Tenant Association declined the offers, opting to pursue their own vision of improved common areas, increased security, stable rent, community space and maintaining a source of affordable housing in a changing city.
The tenants agreed to partner with Ray Nix and Hampstead as their development partner. With the help of an attorney, and through the bargaining power associated with TOPA rights, the residents negotiated for specific building improvements and affordability agreements.
In order to secure the opportunity to assign their TOPA rights, the tenants at 812 Jefferson were required to provide an earnest money deposit of $100,000, an often difficult task due to the tight TOPA timeline that requires a very quick turnaround in loan acquisition.
This gap created the opportunity for LISC DC’s involvement. We provided a $100,000 earnest money deposit, helping the 812 Jefferson Street Tenant Association meet its deadline, and allowing the association to move forward. This resulted in the preservation of 55 affordable apartments.