About 30 persons carrying pickets marched four blocks from their allegedly badly constructed houses in the 1800 block of 8th and 9th streets NW yesterday to Mayor Walter Washington's LeDroit Park home to demand correction of their construction problems.
The protesters own moderately priced row houses located between 8th, 9th, S and T streets NW, a project named the Blanche K. Bruce Plaza. Renovation of the homes involved the city housing department, private contractors, and the D.C. Housing Industry Corp., an organization composed of bankers, builders, real estate brokers and landlords.
Joe Murray, a day-care center director who lives at 1842 8th Street in one of the Plaza's homes, said one of the reasons be bought his home was that it was highly praised by city officials.
"We were told our houses were not going to jive houses," Murray, 31, said. "Everybody - the mayor, the housing department - backed them up. We were told these were going to be good houses. But it was jive work, and nobody's doing anything about it." Murray was one of yesterday's pickets.
Firms associated with real estate formed the D.C. Housing Industry Corp. in late 1975, and announced that their first project would be t renovate 35 vacant row houses in Shaw. The city had acquired the homes several years earlier and evicted their tenants. The housing industry corgoration bought the homes from the city and hired five contractors to renovate them. The houses then were sold for $30,000 and $35,000 to low and moderate income families.
But residents said thay have had severe problems with their homes, including carpets that buckle and faulty plumbing.
The signs and chants yesterday told of their complaints. "We Need Decent Houses, Not Cosmetic Repairs," one poster read, and the marchers repeated, "We want our houses fixed, no more tricks," and Mister Mayor, can you hear, we want warranties."
"They act like we shouldn't complain about the houses because they didn't cost $70,000," Murray said.
The mayor wasn't home to hear the pickets. A man who answered the door and said he was cleaning the floors said the mayor was not there. A number of neighborhood children ran to the sidewalk to find out what was going on, however, and skipped down the street repeating some of the chants themselves.
Lorenzo W. Jacobs Jr., director of the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, met with the Plaza residents Friday at the District Building.
"Some of the work has not been done as well as it should have been done," Jacobs said.
Jacobs also said that the housing industry corporation notified contractors that repairs must be made by Friday or the corporation will fix up the houses itself and charge the contractors for the work.
Jacobs added that his department will not sign any more housing contracts with the corporation until the work at the Blanche K. Bruce Plaza has been completed.
On the other side of the city in Southeast Washington, a group of tenants also were protesting yesterday morning, demanding the opportunity to form a cooperative and purchase their apartments before they are sold to speculators.
The residents there live in a low-rise, low-rent complex of 11 brick buildings, each with four one-bedroom apartments in the 1800 block of C Street SE in what is known as an "extended" Capitol Hill area.
According to a statement prepared by Edna Johnson, chairwoman of the 1800 C Street Tenants' Association, the Jack Spicer Real Estate firm bought the entire block last September for $302,500, an average of $27,500 per building.
Nine days later, Spicer sold five of the structures for an daverage of $45,000 each, the tenants' association found. Last January, three of those five buildings in turn were sold for about $65,000 each, and the remaining two were sold last month for $69,400 and $70,000. The tenants in the buildings that still house apartments - 1826 through 1846 C Street SE - said they fear their homes are next.
"The market value of the properties has soared without any improvements made to the property," Johnson said. "One senior citizen living here told me she received a notice saying her rent will increase from $113 to $179.50. And speculators have told me that my rent is going to go up just like hers." Johnson said she pays $119.25 a month for her one-bedroom unit.
Some of the tenants formed a car caravan yesterday and traveled from their residences near D.C. General Hospital to Spicer's office at 524 8th St. SE, where they taped signs to the front building. "Stop Speculation, and "Your Investment Equals Our Displacement," the signs said. The tenants complained that Spicer has not responded to their requests for a meeting to discuss whether he will sell the buildings to a tenant's cooperative, and charged that some tenants have received eillegal eviction notices and rent increases. One of the posters yesterday depicted several people trying to pull the plugs out of a man's ears.
Spicer could not be reached for comment yesterday.