Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward One) asked yesterday for an investigation of illegal renting of affordable housing in at least two condominiums in Ward One. Graham believes both the Rhapsody Condominium at 2120 Vermont Avenue, NW and the Tivoli Townhomes Condominium at 1340 Monroe Street, NW are illegally renting lower priced units.
"I call on the Department of Housing and Community Development to investigate. I am concerned that evidence given to me suggest fraud. This is a very serious charge and requires a thorough investigation by the Mayor and the Council," Graham said.
Wilson Reynolds, Director of Constituent Services for Graham said this exploitation of affordable housing is an abuse of pre-delivery agreements between the District and developers. "The standardization and enforcement for affordable housing has not been what it needs to be. We have constituents that are telling us that they are finding affordable units being advertised at market rate. We have people taking advantage of something for which an awful lot of work was done and concessions were made. This has deep implications because the city has given things in return to allow developers to reach extra floor area ratios or other variances in exchange for creating units that were supposed to be affordable," Reynolds added.
Reynolds said the purpose of the investigation is to find out who is at fault; Graham is not specifically pointing fingers at the developers or the unit owners. Reynolds said it will be a multi-step process and will include the Department of Housing and Community Development, that has a history of dealing with affordable housing. Other involved agencies will likely include the DC Office of the Deputy Mayor, the Office of Zoning, and Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
Under DC law, those who buy affordable units cannot rent it for five years. The District government offers developers additional square footage and other such incentives in return for affordable units.
"The idea is they're supposed to live in it for five years. There are variations, you may be able to rent it or sell it, you have the right of ownership, but because of the ADU covenant, there may be qualifiers in it. One example is that after five years, you can rent it but to someone who doesn't exceed the income level that you had when you purchased it," Reynolds said.
"Affordable housing is precious in our city, and we must do all we can to preserve it," Graham said.