Housing Complex

905 R Street NW: Not Abandoned

Just waiting on permits? (Lydia DePillis)

It's always puzzling to see properties sit vacant in fast-developing neighborhoods. Sometimes there are bureaucratic reasons for the delay, and sometimes owners are just absent. In the case of 905 R Street NW–one of the most painful eyesores in Shaw–the District transferred the house as part of a group of properties to the New Columbia Community Land Trust back in 2002, with an agreement that the non-profit would rehab the building as affordable units by that year. It never happened, and the property almost went to tax sale in the intervening years. It's now on the vacant property list, and is some $20,000 behind in taxes. But a representative of the Trust says it's just taken forever to get building permits from DCRA, and they'll start the renovation as soon as they come through.

"We didn't just pick this property and say 'we're going to sit on our hands,'" she said on the phone.

  • Dan Maceda

    Is anybody ever going to explain just what is the problem with DCRA providing permits? Perhaps the City auditor should look at this particular instance and either call it out as a lie or highlight the DCRA problem in processing the permits.

  • Rick Mangus

    Waiting for permits, NO! Waiting for the shake-down payment, YES!

  • GreenTea

    ummmm..i bought a house in late 2009 and gut-renovated it into 2 units 10 months. DCRA wasn't the greatest, but once we got rolling, we were full speed ahead. sure, we had to make a few people feel "special" along the way, but that's the deal in every big city. you just need to get the right guys on the job to make it happen. they are stalling and not serious about getting that place renovated. let someone else do the job.

  • Rick Mangus

    DCRA is one of the most crooked agencies in this city, I know first hand!

  • Ace in DC

    DCRA is not great - but the New Columbia Community Land Trust must be an incompetent group if they can not develop a row house in 8 years. For a group that does this for a living (their website says they have been around at least since 1992) - they sure seem to have no idea what they are doing.

  • whoa_now

    Green Tea- Does "special" actually mean bribe? Honest question. If it means brownies and compliments I'm sort of fine with that, but a bribe of money is some 3rd world action. I don't fault your end, I understand, but if DCRA is waiting for bribes, that should be reported, no?

  • Tania Jackson

    Ace in DC-- actually, they are good at what they do, but the combination of the creative financing required with nonprofit housing development (which, even before the crash was rough going for small projects like this)in combination with navigating the city process if rough. It's not just getting the permitting from DCRA, it's getting all of the records in the city's system to align and then getting permits, and working all of it to come to fruition at the same time. There's no such thing as the city just "giving" property to a non-profit. Further, there hasn't ever been an instance where the property was awarded and there wasn't a ton of work that needed to be done in the aftermath to complete the disposition. I'm not defending 8 years of lagging without knowing the full story, but from my experience in community development, untangling the knots of this process takes a long time.

  • GreenTea

    i wouldnt call it a bribe as much as a reverse "tip" we got better service that way. any contractor who's worth their salt knows how to work this wacky system. the real issue is turnover at DCRA: there is very little continuity/loyalty to the place and its' procedures, so you need to work with the people who are willing to work with you or else nothing gets done

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