Housing Complex

Goodbye Deauville, Hello Monsignor Oscar Romero Apartments

There will be a new building here yet. (Lydia DePillis)

There will be a new building here yet. (Lydia DePillis)

For two years since the Deauville Apartments at 3145 Mount Pleasant Street burned down in a fire-alarm blaze, the former residents have met every other Saturday afternoon with pro-bono lawyers to figure out how they were to return. This last Saturday, though, they gathered to celebrate: The Council had finally approved a $4.137 million, 43-year loan from HUD's Community Development Block Grant program for the tenants association to buy the burnt-out shell from owner NWJ Companies, preserving it as 67 units of affordable rental housing.

As a declaration of independence, the new building won't bear the Deauville name. Instead, the 40 returning tenants–most of whom have been living nearby, with rental assistance from the District–decided to name it after Salvadoran human rights leader Oscar Romero.

They're not quite out of the woods yet. The National Housing Trust, which facilitated the acquisition funding, is still working on pulling together the millions of dollars more that it will take to actually construct a new building. Plus, there are some legal issues still to sort out, including 20 landlord-tenant cases concerning rent increases from before the fire. A team from the law firm Arnold & Porter has been working with the building since 2004, and had reached a settlement regarding the tenants' previous attempt to buy the property, but the fire put that on hold.

NWJ, meanwhile, still has a presence in the D.C. housing market. It doesn't exist online as NWJ Companies, but rather as Signature Community, which retains most of the portfolio amassed by owner Nicholas W. Jekogian (NWJ, get it?). After selling the fomer Deauville, the company will have only three properties in D.C. after its original buy of seven. The others look ok from the outside, but have dozens of housing condition complaints filed over the last few years. One on Ontario Road in Adams Morgan is behind $55,731 in property taxes, and one on 9th Street NE has a $20,954 water and sewer lien.

So, when your housing sucks: Remember the Deauville!

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