Bernice Thompson pays $200 a month to rent a five-bedroom rowhouse at 821 4th Street NE where rats enter through the kitchen floor, where falling plaster has hit her daughter in the eye, and she had no water at all for months this year, she said.
"Don't fall through the dining room floor," Thompson cautioned a visitor to her home yesterday. There are so many leaks in her ceiling that, she said, "When it rains outdoors it rains indoors."
When she and her children want to take a hot bath, they must visit her mother.
Thompson's landlady is Patricia Rice Press, the real estate investor who last week was formally selected by a city housing agency as the purchaser of a vacant, boarded home on Logan Circle at a price of $32,000 -- nearly $100,000 less than its current estimated market value. Press also will get low-interest loan funds from the city to fix up the huge Victorian residence.
Charles Richardson, an advisory neighborhood commissioner and chairman at the Shaw Project Area Committee, has been one of the most frequent critics of the way the city's Redevelopment Land Agency handled the sale and rehabilitation of the 14 homes it acquired in the early 1970s on Logan Circle. Yesterday he called attention to the plight of Thompson and her family to dramatize what he called the city's way of "rewarding speculation."
The sale of the Logan Circle homes to middle and upper-middle income families -- some who already own property and some who live in the suburbs -- was "totally ridiculous" and contrary to the program's original purpose, Richardson said.
Informed of the charges of Richardson and Thompson, Press yesterday replied that she had "done everything in my power, plus some, to help Mrs. Thompson," and questioned why she had been "singled out" for criticism.
"I am a black woman who has worked my ass off to make it," she said.
In order to be approved as a buyer for Number 18 Logan Circle, Press, a civic activist who also operates a laundromat, had to agree to pay the city 80 percent of any profit she may make if she sells the house within the next 10 years. She also agreed to rent an apartment in the house to a family qualifying for federal rent subsidies.
She was one of only 14 purchasers tentatively selected to buy the homes last year. The homes were sold at their 1975 appraised values, prices set before the area became the center of extensive restoration and renovation.
The other 13 homes were sold last year. Press, then involved in a heated campaign for the Ward Six City Council seat, asked the RLA board to delay a decision on Number 18 Logan Circle until after the election. She subsequently lost the election narrowly to incumbent, Nadine P. Winter. Logan Circle is not in Ward Six.
"I am very good to my tenants," Press said yesterday. "I let Mrs. Thompson stay in that home with her sister, her children, her adult friends, and her sister and her sister's children. I never went up on the rent, I never charged them an extra dollar."
Press said she fixed up the house "like new" when she first bought it and made repairs until spring. The pipes froze and burst last winter, she said, because Mrs. Thompson neglected to buy heating oil. A plumber said the property needed a completely redone heaiing system which would cost several thousand dollars -- money which Press said she did not have.
She said she has asked Thompson's help in making repairs because there are working adults in the house capable of making them.
Thompson, however, said that as far as repairs, "sHe [Press] ain't did anything . . . If you ask her to do work, she don't want to do the work. Other than that she's a nice landlady." Thompson also claimed it was not her negligence in buying oil that caused the pipes to freeze last winter.
Thompson said several persons have visited her home recently, including Richardson, Nadine Winter, and housing inspectors who have sent plumbers by to make some of the repairs. Press herself dropped by on Sunday, she added.
Thompson said she and Press have been looking for a better place for her to live with no success. "Where would I go with my seven children?" she asked.