The District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency voted yesterday to sell 89 properties in the Bates Street NW area, for years one of the city's worst slums, for $422,110.
Although yesterday's action may signal the start of improvements for the area, long promised by the city but often delayed during the past nine years, many residents and organizers in the Shaw neighborhood attacked the plans for Bates Stree.
These opponents charged that prices of the rehabilitated homes will be beyond the reach of almost every family displaced from the area and that of current residents.
The developer of the properties is Bates Street Associates Inc., a firm of three minority corporations - Holmes and Sherrod Industries Inc., Constructon Ventures Inc., and Syphax Enterprises. The Firm is to renovate completely the interiors of the houses before selling them.
Forty-five of the homes on Bates, First, Third, P and Q Streets NW will be sold to purchasers at conventional market rates ranging as high as $58,000.
The other 44 properties will be sold to homeowners under the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department's Section 235 program, which subsidizes interest rates so homeowners pay only 5 percent interest on housing loans.
Sale prices of 32 of those houses will range from $38,000 for a three-bedroom home to $44,000 for a four-bedroom house. The city's Department of Housing and Community Development is subsidizing those homes for about $14,000 each, so they meet federal guidelines for the program, according to RLA board secretary and housing official Roy Priest.
The other 12 properties to be sold under section 235 will be additionally subsidized by the city housing department so their sale prices will range from $29,500 to $32,500 Priest said.
The prices of those 12 homes were reduced afater community residents protested at a hearing in November that the prices were too high. RLA board members had tabled a vote on the matter and worked with the staff to try to reduce the cost of the homes.
In addition, some of the units in the Bates Street area will be available for rent for persons who participate in a rent subsidy program, Priest said.
But community residents and organizers said yesterday after the vote that they still were unsatisfied with the RLA board action.
"Those are the last houses in Shaw that could have gose to low-and moderate-income homeowners. We felt that all of mem should go to low-and moderate-income people who are being displaced," said Joycce Chestnut, a community organizer with the Shaw Project Area Committe.
The Shaw PAC also complained that the city housing department had not provided the organization adequate help in locating displaced persons.
"They're just too high," Chestnut said of the prices. "They're too high for low-and moderate-income persons. they're ridiculous prices. RLA's mission is to provide housing for low-and moderate-income people."
D.C. City Council member Nadine Winter, who said she was appearing before the RLA board yesterday as a private citizen, asked the board to table the matter agaain. She questioned whether the staff had reduced the cost of the houses as much as possibel.
After the meeting, Winter said, "I have never been so frustrated in all my life. I am convinced that tahe board needsan independent staff immediately, and it may need abolishing." Winter said she is urging Mayor Walter Washington to remove city housing dorector Lorenzo Jacobs.
For years, Bates Street and its surrounding blocks have been one of the city's worst slums areas. Bates Street intersects First and Third Streets and is parallel to and between P and Q Streets.
An article about the street in The Washington Post for four years ago described it as an "inner-city nightmare, with rotting houses, filthy streets, homeground crime, exploitation by speculators and a population trapped in a cycle of deprivation."
Since then, many programs have been planned and promises made for the area. Bates Street today - a street of burned, boarded, bricks and mostly vacant row houses - shows little improvement.
A widow, who said she has lived on Bates Street since 1950, put the problem this way:
"We don't have no say, no choice. When you poor, you don't have a choice. Ever since '56, they been talking about this street. A lot of words, no action."