More than 200 tenants and tenant-rights advocates gathered at the District Building yesterday to demand new city legislation to stem widespread conversions of apartment houses to condominiums.
"Thousands of people are struggling to find a place to live," said Kathryn Eager, chairman of the Emergency Committee to Save Rental Housing, one of the groups that organized yesterday's rally. She denounced what she termed "greedy landlords" and "indifferent city officials" for the increasing number of condominium conyersions.
The number of apartments declared eligibile by the D.C. government for conversion to condominiums has risen sharply in the past year. In 1978, according to city housing records, the District approved 10,481 rental apartments as eligible for conversion -- nearly 15 times the 1977 figure.
Some tenant-rights advocates urged enactment of legislation yesterday to prohibit all conversions of apartment houses to condominiums in the District of Columbia while a shortage of rental housing [Words Illegible] posed conversion [Words Illegible] jority of the tenants in a building.
Although the tenants' rally took place in the City Council chambers, few council members were present. One council member who attende. Wilhelmina Jackson Rolark (D-Ward 8), told the gathering. "I'm with you."
Several tenant spokesmen assailed a bill, proposed by council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2) which is designed to allow some higher-priced apartments to be exempted from the city's rent control regulations if they become vacant.The rent control rules set limits on rent increases for many city dwellings.
"We're going to work very hard to defeat this [Wilson] measure," said Sheila Boykin Albright, vice chairperson of the Citywide Housing Foundation, a tenants aid group. "John Wilson, you will need to be elected again and the tenants of the city will remember you."
Wilson was not persent yesterday. An aide said Wilson's bill was aimed at "preserving some rental housing" in the city by giving landlords a financial incentive not to convert their buildings to condominiums.