Friday, October 12, 2012

Wasington Post Express Article

From Renters to Owners by Rebecca Kern

A District law helped tenants at the Norwood take charge of their homes

(The Norwood Cooperative’s Silvia Salazar, second from right, sits among young residents, from left, Edwin Marcelo, Nizar Ghoumari, Alex Lopez and Anai Marcelo.) 

Silvia Salazar didn’t expect tenant organizing to change her life. She just wanted to rid her decaying apartment complex of bedbugs, black mold and rats. The 36-year-old ended up empowering her neighbors to advocate for themselves and, ultimately, become proud owners of their own building.

For years, Salazar’s calls and letters to the management company of her 1930s-era Logan Circle building went unanswered. In October 2005, she decided to take action. She met with a handful of renters in the laundry room to discuss their home’s flaws.

Over the next six years, the group formed a tenant association and waged a legal battle to purchase their seven-story, 84-unit building, now the Norwood Cooperative (1417 N St. NW). Salazar and her neighbors were able to buy their homes because of D.C.’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, or TOPA.

The hardest part of the TOPA process, says Salazar, now co-president of Norwood’s cooperative board, was persuading the tenants to organize. Even communication was a hurdle in a building whose residents speak English, Spanish, a native Guatemalan dialect and Arabic.

By purchasing the building in July 2011, she says, Norwood helped preserve affordable housing in a neighborhood where luxury apartments are becoming the norm.

“When a building goes up for sale in D.C., there’s a risk and an opportunity,” says Farah Fossé of the Latino Economic Development Center, who helps tenants through the TOPA process. “If tenants do nothing, the new owner could try to get rid of affordability.”

Read the full article here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Celebrating "A Decade of Progress" of Affordable Housing in DC

We offer much deserved thanks to the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development (CNHED) for your tireless efforts to advocate for the preservation of affordable housing in the District of Columbia.  Thanks in great part to your advocacy efforts, buildings like the Norwood have the opportunity to organize and secure funding to purchase and preserve their buildings as affordable housing.  The diverse working families at the Norwood, who work in the service industry and young working professionals, now have a safe place to live without having to worry about the increasing cost of housing.

Since we purchased our building in July 2011, we have worked towards addressing longstanding maintenance issues and repairs. We are currently working towards our goal to fully rehabilitate the building and create an affordable on site childcare center by working with architects on identifying areas of need in our building.  Our goal is to secure $4 million in financing to cover the cost of rehab.

We hope that the "Decade of Progress" report and video help raise awareness about how tenants living in DC rent controlled buildings have the opportunity to organize and purchase their homes as affordable housing.  If we are good enough to work in DC, then we are good enough to live here!