Housing Complex

Catania Bills to Aid Section 8 Tenants Will Have to Wait

cataniaDavid Catania acted quickly to introduce a legislative fix to an issue threatening hundreds of D.C. residents on Section 8 housing subsidies last week. But he didn't act quickly enough.

My column in last Thursday's paper examined a recent ultimatum issued by a Mount Vernon Triangle building owner to the 302-unit building's low-income, mostly Chinese tenants: Come up with $250 million to buy the building, or face demolition this fall. Less than 24 hours after the story was published, Catania informed D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson of his intent to circulate draft legislation the following morning to be considered at today's Council legislative session. The package of bills would have limited the sale price that building owners can charge Section 8 tenants under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act when the building is set to be demolished, capping it at the city's appraised value. For the Mount Vernon Triangle building, the Museum Square Apartments, that would have been $36 million, rather than the $250 million the owner is seeking.

But Catania's circulation of the bills came after the Wednesday deadline to do so, and so it was up to Mendelson to decide whether to allow the legislation to be considered. Late Friday, he informed Catania's office that he would not include it in today's session. Because this session is the Council's last before its summer recess, that means the Council won't consider the bill before September. That would still leave enough time to address the Museum Square issue before the tenants are forced to leave: The building's Section 8 contract isn't up until Oct. 1, and the tenants might be able to forestall demolition further by exercising their TOPA rights, even if they haven't put together the money to make the purchase. But the delay is likely frustrating to residents—and welcomed by the property owner, the Bush Companies of Williamsburg, Va.—as the building's future remains up in the air through the summer.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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