D.C. City Council Member H.R. Crawford (D- Ward 7) has introduced legislation to grant reduced water and sewer rates for nonprofit housing projects in the city. Crawford operates a property management firm that handles four such projects in the District.

The bill, introduced last March, would cut city water and sewer rates by half for housing projects that qualify as nonprofit. Also, those projects in severe financial straits could also apply for additional hardship rate reductions.

The bill would benefit four projects managed by Crawford's firm, Crawford/Edgewood Managers, Inc. The nonprofit rental properties, all in Northwest Washington, are Foster House, Gibson Plaza, Lincoln-Westmoreland and Samuel Kelsey Gardens.

Crawford is a successful real estate manager and former assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

When he introduced the bill, Crawford said it was intended to provide some relief for those nonprofit housing projects that are threatened with financial extinction because of spiraling costs of operating rental housing in the District.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Crawford denied he would benefit financially by reduced water and sewer rates. "My [management] fee is not based on whether or not they can pay their damned water bills," he said. "Unfortunately, we're all in that Watergate syndrome. With all the suspicion that's been raised, I'll just let someone else take the ball."

During his campaign last year, Crawford consistently fended off questions about his possible conflicts of interest as an elected official with the phrase, "Where there is no interest, there is no conflict." He repeatedly promised during the campaign that he would disqualify himself from any official City Council action that would directly affect his outside housing interests.

When he introduced the rate relief bill, one of only five bills Crawford has introduced in six months on the council, he said he was concerned that many church-owned, nonprofit housing projects could not stay financially afloat.