A happy solution to their housing problem is in sight for the tenants of 95 low-rent apartment units in Glover Park who got eviction notices last December.
The evictions were scheduled to have taken place over the past weekend. They didn't. Instead, the landlord and the tenants have reached a tentative agreement that could lead to cooperative ownership of the project by the tenants.
Under the terms of the agreement, as described by Esther Siegel, president of the tenant organization, rents in the project will go up sharply, but will still be lower than those paid for comparable units elsewhere in the city.
William Walde, the landlord, confirmed that a tentative agreement had been reached, but did not spell out details.
"I'm going to give the people a break - the deal is a two-edged deal . . . I make money, they make money," Walde told a reporter.
The apartment development involved consist of 10 three-story brick buildings at 41st and Beecher Streets NW, near Glover-Archbold Park in the Glover Park neighborhood. It is one of the last remaining pockets of low-rent housing in the city west of Rock Creek Park.
The tenants, who formed the Beecher Low-Rise Tenants Association to negotiate with Walde, held a block party Saturday afternoon to mark the day when they would have been evicted.
Tenants and neighbors sat on the grass sipping beer and munching snacks as rock bands played and a mime entertained the children.
Siegel said the block party had a more serious purpose. It was, she said, a show of solidarity with other tenants across the city who face evictions as their projects are withdrawn from the rental market for various reasons - typically for costly remodeling, or conversion to condominiums.
Banners were strung up on the Becher Street buildings: "We shall not be moved," one read. "Moratorium on evictions," another proclaimed.
The political significance of the tenants' activity was underscored by the visits of several D.C. City Council members to the party. Among those who dropped by were Marion Barry Jr. and Sterling Tucker, both candidates for mayor, and David A. Clarke.
The Beecher Street story began for the tenants in December when they received the eviction notices from Walde, who had just purchased the 37-year-old project from its original owner for $1.2 million.
Walde was quoted as saying he wanted to tear the project down and replace it with townhouses, a report Walde now denies.
Whatever his purposes, Walde's eviction notices galvanized the tenants into action. Many were on moderate or fixed incomes, and they were anxious to hang on to units renting from $139 to $155 a month, utilities included.
The tenants hired a lawyer, and a series of negotiations resulted in the tentative agreement disclosed last week by Siegel.
Under the terms, tenants will pay $100 more a month, plus utilities, and in return will have 18 months to put together a housing cooperative and find financing for it, Siegel said. She also said an attempt will be made to subsidize the higher rents for some of the lower-income tenants.
"There are a lot of nuances, and it is complicated," Siegel said. "But we do feel optimistic it is going to happen."