The following story is the third of six profiles in our new publication, Preservation Works: LISC DC’s Role in Preserving Quality Affordable Housing. You can read and/or print the entire publication here.
Many residents of Meridian Cozy Condominiums first moved into their homes on 15th Street NW in the late 1980’s. By now, the 17-unit building overlooking Meridian Hill Park has housed multiple generations of families— providing a home for grandparents, parents, and their children. Residents are a diverse group, hailing from Central America, South America, and East Africa, and spanning across a wide age range.
In 1994, the owner of the building spoke to residents regarding the upcoming sale of the building and notified them of their TOPA rights. With the help of University Legal Services (ULS), the residents were able to organize, gather all necessary information, and purchase the building.
The residents formed a limited equity cooperative, since not all residents qualified for individual mortgages and could not afford to purchase a condominium. The tenant association acquired city funding for acquisition and renovation. The residents moved out of their apartments temporarily during construction and returned to newly renovated homes in 1996.
From the beginning, the residents knew they would ultimately prefer to convert the cooperative to condominiums, and worked with their attorneys to include a legal provision to enable this process. The residents also knew that they would not convert to condos until everybody—all 17 units— were ready to do so.
According to Ligia Pardo, Meridian Cozy resident, the residents were on the same page. She explained, “Like a family from the beginning, we started this together, and we’re going to end it together. If somebody cannot do it, we’re not going to do it.” The residents ran into some difficulty finding mortgages. “We were not going to leave anybody behind. It took us a long time to do the whole process, but we kept asking around and asking around until we got to LISC DC,” Ligia added.
Recognizing the opportunity to support these first time homeowners, LISC DC provided a loan of $500,000 for acquisition and bridge financing in 2011. Since the original DHCD loan needed to be repaid in a lump sum, LISC DC’s flexibility and financial support enabled the process to move forward.
According to Ligia, both the creation of the cooperative and the conversion to condominiums were arduous and time-consuming, yet ultimately worth it. Columbia Heights has changed dramatically, and the residents’ investment in the building sets them up nicely for the future. In the meantime, the residents are enjoying a high quality of life within the building, a sense of security in an appreciating market, and access to amenities in a revitalized neighborhood.