A Year After Peaceoholics Renovated Buildings, They’re Mostly 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.
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