Instead of getting "condoed" and being forced to leave their low-budget dwelling, tenants in the 40-year-old Tel Court Garden Apartments -- mostly low-income workers and retirees -- will soon be homeowners and the result of a cooperative effort among several groups.

With the help of an up-front "seed" loan of $424,860 from Savings Associations Financial Enterprises [SAFE] Inc., secondary financing of $253,077 from the District and the support of a church-sponsored group, 58 tenants in the 10 brick buildings will soon be cooperative owners. Many of them have been long-time tenants, and a few already had an ownership interest in the building that was sold to the new tenant co-op by Telsyndicate for $404,000.

Peter R. Fuchs, executive vice president of SAFE a [private, unsubsidized corporation owned and operated by 16 D.C. savings and loan associations], said SAFE become interested in the project as an "innovative effort to preserve housing in the city for current residents threatened with displacement." He said incomes of working tenants are generally low and that others are retirees on fixed incomes.

An estimated $240,000 is budgeted for rehabilitation of the buildings located on P, O and Half streets SW, near South Capitol Street. Edward Janke AIA is construction manager for the rehab work that began late in June.

In dicussing how the small apartment project was purchased and set up for co-op tenant ownership, Fuchs said the success of the endeavor was accomplished "with no little luck" and a lot of input from Alice Vetter, representing MUSCLE -- Ministries United to Support Community Life.

Vetter, in turn, said the conversion to tenant ownership was possible because of SAFE's initial financial commitment to make the purchase possible and then the commitment for a permanent loan by Perpetual Federal Savings and Loan Association.

"also the District provided secondary financing and aid for low-income tenants. MUSCLE is provided counseling and help for inner-city residents with the help of HUD grant," Vetter said.

Most of the tenants have been paying rents of $100 to $150 for one and two-bedroom apartments at Tel Court.

After conversion to condominium ownership, toward which most tenants paid $500 or $750, the monthly payments for owernship and occupancy are expected to be $200 and $300. However, some of the owners will be eligible for monthly subsides.

Patricia Wells of Jones-wells and Associates will serve as property manager for the cooperative after the conversion is completed. Each tenant-owner will be shareholder in the Tel Court Co-op Association Inc. CAPTION: Picture, Tel Court Apartments on Half Street SW between P and O, which are converting to cooperative ownership. By Joe Heiberger -- The Washington Post