In DC, public housing tenants forced out, then homes flipped

Source: Ben Nuckols, Associated Press, November 29, 2015

In the rapidly gentrifying nation’s capital, real estate investors aren’t the only ones flipping houses for profit. The city’s public housing authority is getting in on the action — moving aging tenants out of homes where they’ve lived for decades, renovating them and selling them to wealthy buyers. The renovations, at a cost of more than $300,000 per home, are outfitting the houses with luxury amenities, and some of the houses have sold for nearly $900,000. Others, however, have sat vacant for a year or longer after tenants were forced out. The housing authority plans to use the profits to renovate existing subsidized rental units and build new ones. But most of that work hasn’t started, and none of the money has gone to new construction yet, according to the agency. Meanwhile, sales have been slow-moving and haphazard. Some elderly tenants and their children have asked for an opportunity to purchase the homes, only to be rebuffed, even after spending thousands of dollars maintaining the rental properties…..
Want To Buy Public Housing? D.C. Has Got Some For Sale — But It’s Not Cheap
Source: Martin Austermuhle, WAMU, September 28, 2015

Marketed as a “stunning renovation,” a rowhouse at 14th and Euclid streets NW sold in August for $920,000, down slightly from its asking price. That the 2,260-square foot, four-bedroom home was able to fetch that price in Columbia Heights isn’t surprising. Neither is the $703,000 that a smaller rowhouse — also fully renovated — at 13th and Emerald streets NE sold for late last month. But what is surprising is who’s selling these homes, and many more like them: the D.C. Housing Authority, the independent city agency charged with operating, maintaining and building public housing throughout the city. In recent months, the Housing Authority has been renovating and selling off single-family homes in some of the city’s hottest neighborhoods. The renovations — most costing hundreds of thousands of dollars — feature many high-end flourishes more closely associated with luxury than public housing: marble countertops, new hardwood floors, and stainless steel appliances. All told, 26 houses have been — or will be — listed at prices that reflect D.C.’s booming real estate market and the fast-changing neighborhoods they are located in. These are homes that the Housing Authority, and the D.C. government before it, has owned for decades. Once purchased for the purpose of housing low-income families in regular city neighborhoods — instead of isolating them in massive public housing complexes — the Housing Authority is now finishing off a decades-long sale of hundreds of the single-family homes. The hope is that the sales’ proceeds will cycle back into the preservation of existing public housing and help create new affordable housing units. In an era of declining federal support for public housing, Housing Authority officials say the money from the sales is vital to its mission. But critics contend that the agency is only furthering gentrification by selling off the homes — some of which stood vacant for years — at top dollar. ….