A District of Columbia housing agency last week approved the sale at bargain prices of 13 vacant, dilapidated houses in the Logan Circle area, a historic inner-city neighborhood where extensive and expensive rehabilitation of huge once-elegant Victorian homes is taking place.
The city's Redevelopment Land Agency agreed to sell the 13 vacant houses at prices ranging from $10,000 to $39,650 to 13 individuals and groups who will spend between $50,000 and $120,000 per house on renovations.
Most of the renovation cost will be financed by low-interest rehabilitation loans from the city and the federal governments. The interest will be only 3 per cent, far below the prevailing interest rate for bank loans. More than $900,000 is available for lending.
In order to buy a house and get a loan, all buyers except one, whose building is smaller than the others, had to agree to rent at least one apartment to a low-income or moderate-income family qualifying for a federal rent subsidy program. All the buyers had to agree to live in their new homes for at least five years.
Though some Logan Circle community organizations said they approve the sale of the houses in this way, other persons have asked why the city is subsidizing, "in at least some instances, upper middle income homebuyers without providing home ownership opportunities for low and moderate income families who now rent in the city. Some of the buyers of the Logan Circle houses already own homes, and some live in suburbs.
City housing officials point out, however, that one priority in selecting purchasers was whether they could afford to finance and maintain the large residences. Roy Priest, chief of programing for the city housing department, said, "There was no way those homes could have been made available for low and moderate-income families."
In order to buy, finance, rehabilitate and restore some of the Logan Circle houses, families need incomes of "around $35,000 or $40,000" a year, Priest said.
Marcus Dasher, chief of neighborhood preservation for the housing department, said the intent of the program is to provide "home ownership opportunities for persons with the wherewithal to maintain them, and to provide rental opportunities for low-income people in the area." Dasher said priority for rented apartments in the Logan Circle houses will be given to displaced families in the Shaw area.
But Charles Richardson Jr., chairman of the Shaw Project Area Committee, told Redevelopment Land Agency board members at their meeting this week that they are "fostering speculation in the city." He said provisions in the sales contracts for the Logan Circle houses are not strong enough to ensure that the homes are not being sold to persons who plan to resell them at big profits.
Patricia King, RLA board chairwoman, responded in a telephone interview by saying, "I don't think the speculation question has any merit." She said RLA, in selling the houses, tried to balance several interests involving shortage of rental apartments in the District, the need for a mix of home ownership and rental properties, and the need to find buyers who could afford restoration in a historic district.
RLA acquired the houses in the early 1970s as part of the Shaw urban renewal program. In early 1977, more than 1,500 prospectuses giving information about the proposed sale of the buildings were distributed, and the city housing department received 71 formal applications from prospective buyers.
The people selected vary in race and age and occupation. Some are renters; others already are home owners.Some have children; some don't. SOme live in the inner city, other are renting in the suburbs or in middle class Northeast neighborhoods.
One couple amoung the buyers, Robert Gordon, an architect, and his wife Doll, a nurse at Howard University Hospital, said their combined income is about $40,000 a year. The Gordons, who have a daughter in college, now rent an apartment in Southeast Washington. The shell they purchased for $39,650 at 1316 Rhode Island Ave. NW is a former church with stained glass windows that also once was a hotel.
Within six months, the Gordons said, they plan to transform their home, with the help of low-interest loans, into an elegant four-bedroom showplace with a bridge extending from the patio to the den overlooking the dining area.
Mrs. Gordon also is appointments secretary for Patricia Rice Press, who is running for the City Council seat in Ward 6. Press heads her own real estate firm in the city. The original packet of Logan Circle houses offered for sale two years ago included 14 houses, and Press has been tentatively selected to buy the 14th, at Logan Circle. Press asked the board to delay awarding the purchase contract until after the election, however, and King said the board probably will do so. If she loses the election, Press said, she will live in her Logan Circle home. If she wins, she said, she will live in Ward 6.
David McLane, 32, an electrician , and his wife Annette, 35, an office manager, have already lived in the Logan Circle area for six years. McLane plans to quit his job in order to do most of the renovation work on their new house at 1105 P St. NW.
"The prostitutes are out there." Mrs. McLane acknowledged in commenting on the current character of the neighborhood, "but they don't bother anybody. As the neighborhood begins to improve, the prostitutes will be obligated to take their trade elsewhere . . . By the time our daughter is able to walk around, it will be a lovely place to walk."
Leslie Gomes, 29, a special assistant in a computer-sharing firm, and her husband, Gary, 33, a businessman, have made several moves in recent years. Their next one will be to 1318 Rhode Island Ave. NW, which cost them $38,000 and now must be restored.
"We wanted to live in one of the renovated areas," said Mrs. Gomes, who said she and her husband have annual salaries totaling about $50,000. They had rented an apartment in Potomac, but found it "an alienating and sterile environment." More recently, they have been restoring a home on 13th Street NW.
Grafton Biglow, who was born and raised in the District and now lives in an apartment in Hyattsville, said he is "anxious" to move back into the city. When he read about the Logan Circle sale, he saw his chance.
Biglow, a 30-year-old program analyst at the Pentagon, said his house's appearance has changed since he first applied for it. "When I started it had one broken window," Biglow said. "Now I don't have one solid window." Last May, a fire in the house caused about $14,000 damage, he said, and window shutters and antiques have been stolen, and mantels and mirrors have been ripped off walls. "If I don't start work on the house within two months, the wall will fall down due to fire," he said.
Other chosen to buy Logan Circle houses, according to city records, are Thomas Melham, who will buy 1205 Rhode Island Ave. for $16,100; Thomas P. Turchan, 1310 Rhode Island Ave. for $30,150; Thomas Bourke, Milton Shinberg and Kent Abraham, 1314 Rhode Island Ave. for $36,200; Albert C. Randolph and Meredith A. Olson, 1344 Vermont Ave. for $31,900; Anita and Franz Marshall and Dora and Nicholas Henderson, 1501 Vermont Ave., for $27,000; Robert Michael Boras, 1521 Vermont Ave., for $30,200; Paul Gieseler, a data processor, and his wife Phyillis, a singing teacher and secretary, and Phillip Gieseler, 1523 Vermont Ave., for $26,900; Danny Wilkes, 1115 P St., for $10,000, and David Van Duzer, an architect, and his wife Carol, who works for the Library of Congress, 1342 Vermont Ave., for $29,000.