A historic event occurred in the District not long ago. For the first time, ownership of 132 units of the Kenilworth Parkside public housing project was turned over to the Kenilworth Parkside Resident Management Corp., a nonprofit organization of mainly low-income residents of public housing. The KPRMC, under the leadership of President Kimi Gray, will continue to manage the 464-unit complex as a nonprofit, low- and moderate-income rental property as the 332 other units of the development are renovated during a five-year period then converted to a limited-equity cooperative.

Purchase of individual units or limited-equity ownership rights will be confined to families residing in or eligible to reside in public housing. Residents not wishing to buy their units many remain as renters in the development. Current residents will have priority purchase rights, and units may be resold only to the corporation, to families eligible for public or assisted housing or to the District's Department of Public and Assisted Housing.

This innovative program was made possible by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It's Homeownership and Opportunity for People Everywhere Program was created to provide low-income persons with the opportunity to manage and own their own homes.

The HOPE program is a three-year, $2.5 billion initiative. Approximately $1 billion has been set aside for public-housing ownership and resident management. And an estimated $250 million in Section 8 housing certificates and vouchers will help subsidize operating expenses and relocation and replacement housing.

So far in the District, only the KPRMC has received approval to participate in this HUD initiative. Since 1982, it has been responsible for developing annual operating budgets, collecting rents, making disbursements, overseeing maintenance operations and for providing social services to the residents. All of these tasks were designed to prepare the KPRMC for eventual ownership of the public housing development.

During the five-year transition period, HUD will provide an operating subsidy of approximately $1.7 million, an amount that does not exceed the amount it would have allocated the project should it have remained public housing. During this five-year period, the KPRMC will be responsible for costs and payments associated with property taxes, maintenance and utility costs.

Recently, I introduced to the D.C. Council the Homeownership Opportunity Program Promotion Tax Abatement Act of 1990, which would provide property tax abatement to the project for 10 years and permit it to pay only half of any assessed water and sewer charges for that same period. The legislation allows for the extension of the same abatements should they be included in the HOPE program. The act would provide local government support for HUD's commendable initiative.

By promoting home ownership, the District will help reinvigorate and stabilize its neighborhoods, reduce the drain on its social services, provide jobs to residents in the development and increase the housing resources available for its low-income citizens, most of whom will be first-time home buyers. In addition, it will be giving low-income people a chance to pass on something tangible to their children.

The legislation's cost to the District will be minimal. The Kenilworth-Parkside public housing project does not now pay District property taxes, although the federal government pays the city a slight fee in lieu of the taxes. It should be noted, however, that the financial experts who reviewed the transfer-of-ownership application predicted that it would save the District $26 million.

The HOPE Program is one of the most innovative housing initiatives to come from HUD since the Urban Homesteading Program. My hat goes off to HUD Secretary Jack Kemp and his staff. Now it's the District's turn.

-- H. R. Crawford is a member of the D.C. Council representing Ward 7 and a former assistant secretary of HUD. He also owns a company that manages apartment complexes, which include residents who receive federal housing subsidies.