Housing Complex

A Year After Peaceoholics Renovated Buildings, They’re Mostly Still Empty

1300 Congress Street SE, still empty.

It's fair to say that the era of the Peaceoholics getting gobs of government funds has come to an end. Last year, the D.C. Council scrutinized $13.7 million in grants and contracts awarded to the anti-violence group over six years. While not guilty of anything terrible, in December, the D.C. Auditor released more information on their failure to comply with reporting requirements on where the money went ($4.49 million came through the now-notorious Children's Youth Investment Trust, so perhaps that's not surprising).

Oh, and the group's founder Ron Moten is now trying to unseat sitting Councilmember Yvette Alexander.

While the Peaceoholics may not be doing much these days, the small real estate portfolio it acquired with city money stands as a reminder of the group's activities. A few of those buildings are back in productive use, but the biggest property—a 13-unit apartment building in Congress Heights—is still dormant.

Here's what happened: In May of last year, the District Department of Housing and Community Development brokered a sale of the Peaceoholics' three buildings to Maryland-based entity called Capitol Development Group LLC for $1.1 million. The Peaceoholics' Jauhar Abraham says he saw none of the money, and doesn't know what's happened to the buildings since. But because they had been purchased with a $4.4 million loan from city's Housing Production Trust Fund—which also paid for renovation—they carry a 40-year covenant dictating that they be rented to low-income people referred by the D.C. Housing Authority.

At a six-unit property that the Peaceholics renovated on Meigs Place NE in Trinidad, the Housing Authority says that one unit has a tenant who's part of the Department of Human Services' permanent supportive housing program, and the rest are vacant.

At a duplex at 400 Oklahoma Avenue NE, the Housing Authority's records show one resident with a housing voucher.

And at the fully-renovated 1300 Congress Street SE, which the Peaceoholics had wanted to turn into transitional housing for at-risk youth until neighbors screamed bloody murder, there appears to be nothing going on at all. All DHCD knows is that it's supposed to be rented to low-income people referred from the Housing Authority, but the Housing Authority has no records of anybody living there. When I stopped by last weekend, there was no evidence of human habitation, and the front gate was padlocked.

I haven't been able to get in touch with the current owner—identified as Richard Hagler, with an address in Dunkirk, Md.—but from what I've been told, although he can only rent the units to poor people, the District  government can't force him to actually do it. At the moment, they're just wasted space.

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UPDATE, 5:45 p.m. - A commenter points me to a little nugget in the Post's investigation into unfulfilled contracts from the Department of Housing and Urban Development:

The plan also noted that the construction work would be done by Calvert County resident Richard Hagler, 54, whose company, according to the plan, had worked for government agencies, built custom homes and refurbished apartment buildings. The Post found that Hagler and his companies have faced a string of civil judgments, and in 2006 agreed to a $250,000 settlement after being sued for shoddy construction. He has declared bankruptcy three times in the last decade, records show.

Photo by Lydia DePillis

  • Brian

    With all the talk about Metro accessible housing needed, I don't see why this building, just 2 blocks from the Congress Heights metro, can't be converted to condos.

    What's all this talk about a 'covenant'? It sounds like some kind of deal with the devil. If the DHCD sold the property, shouldn't the owner be the one to determine the use? There is still the issue with oversaturation of social service programs on this street. There seems to be a disconnect or a total disregard to the Title 11 law that was put in place to keep from having too many social service programs within 500 feet or so from another. Any housing program or CBRF (Community Based Rehab Facility) that receives tax money is considered a social service, right?

    Why bother having it if it is never followed?

  • M

    Maybe, if the DC government didn't insist on wastefully selling buildings for below market prices and providing money to create low-price housing in high-price areas for people who don't pay much in the way of taxes, they could instead use the money saved to invest in education, job training, etc. to help low-income people earn more, be able to actually pay for their own place to live, and pay taxes.

  • Typical DC BS

    So these buildings sit there, ready for tenants and DC government sits on its hands. Why am I not surprised?

  • grumpy

    Hagler was mentioned in series the Post did about failed HUD projects last year - they reported that he has declared bankruptcy 3 times in the past decade and has history of lawsuits being filed against him - perhaps the building is vacant as a result of his financial problems?

  • Lydia DePillis

    @grumpy

    Curse the Post's lousy SEO. And thanks for pointing that out. It's incomprehensible to me that they would have sold the buildings to this guy. Will make further inquiries.

  • Hillman

    Lydia:

    Excellent post.

    Follow the money here. There's simply no way with this much cash chugging around unaccounted for that someone hasn't pocketed a great deal of DC taxpayer funds.

  • http://www.congressheightsontherise.com The Advoc8te

    And here is a Sept 2011 news report from WJLA:

    "Clinton International Praise Chapel tries to build new home despite contractor trouble

    http://www.wjla.com/articles/2011/09/clinton-international-praise-chapel-tries-to-build-new-home-despite-contractor-trouble-66827.html

    Speaking of shoddy construction work we should chat about the number of condos in W8 falling apart because of shoddy construction companies who should never have been licensed (and may not have been).

  • http://www.congressheightsontherise.com The Advoc8te

    At the risk of sounding crazy but wouldn't set asides for low-income housing be more beneficial in communities with mostly high-income housing? Can we get some diversity in some of these neighborhoods? Can we put people where the jobs are?

  • dontaskmenathan

    So the buildings just sit vacant. Why not advertise it on http://www.dchousingsearch.com where a voucher holder could get it? Waste of space.

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