Loose Lips

Nobody Lives in UDC President’s Costly House

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For a school that's mulled cutting its athletic teams and ditching majors to save money, the University of the District of Columbia has a pretty swanky house for its president. Between 2007 and 2011, the university spent almost $500,000 fixing up the Chevy Chase home—so much money that the home improvements featured in an internal audit of UDC spending.

Now UDC just has to get its president to live in it. Despite all the money the school put into the well-appointed home, Interim President James E. Lyons Sr. lives downtown, according to UDC Vice President for Institutional Advancement Michael C. Rogers.

There's a good reason for Lyons, who took over after profligate university president Allen Sessoms was canned in late 2012, to be wary of the residence. Because the house is too far from UDC's Van Ness campus, living in it could mean Lyons would have to report it as taxable income, according to Rogers.

Normally, LL wouldn't care where whoever's trying to fix up UDC lives. If they're not interested in the house's $43,370 worth of cabinets and bookcases, that's up to them.

But while Lyons doesn't live in the residence, UDC still foots the bill for his housing. A contract that would extend Lyons' term to August 2015 would give him $5,568 in housing benefits each month. That's $66,816 a year, on top of his $303,850 annual salary. The contract is set to be reviewed at a D.C. Council hearing on May 30.

It's unclear what deal the school's next president will get on his or her housing. UDC will start its search this September, according to Rogers—nearly two years after Sessoms was ousted. Thanks to the home's location, any future president living in the residence would risk a hefty tax burden.

Meanwhile, aside from hosting some university events, the Chevy Chase manse sits empty. Rogers says UDC has considered selling the house.

“Will the next president want to stay in the house?" Rogers says. "We don’t know."

Photo via Google Streetview

  • Pop M

    Typical. Started construction on a student center budgeted at $40m in Jan 2012 (more than 28 months ago) and there's nothing there as yet. Also UDC is costing $30k/student/year and almost twice the level of peer institutions (according to a joint Brookings Inst and Appleseed Center study). Not serving students, high coss, vacant houses, bungled projects -- all in a days work for UDC....

  • maktoo

    Sell it. That's one less thing to be audited for, and some money back in the coffers.

  • Roy

    How much income was reported to the previous president as housing income and how much income would be reported to the current president if he lived in the home?

    Why didn't the council require the president to live in the home as part of his contract? Usually a university president hosts university related events at the home. Since the current president is receiving such a hefty allowance, is there a requirement that he hosts events at his home?

    Would the home not be taxable income if it was in a different location?

    Who has bottom line responsibility and accountability for issues of waste like this at UDC and why do they keep happening?

  • Bob

    All par for the course at the University of Dysfunctional City!

  • Hal

    Even the house is pretentious and gauche -- like the residence that some tin-horn African dictatorship would rent for its ambassador!