A former federal assistant housing secretary, who is now a private inner-city housing manager and developer here, will make $150,000 on a sale this Thursday of a group of predominantly vacant and boarded-up housing units that are part of a much-publicized project to help the poor.
In the 10 months since it began, the project has not provided any more housing for low- and moderate-income families. Now the developer, H.R. Crawford, is about to get out of the project with a profit on the 33 houses, six duplexes and two small apartment buildings, most of them in depressed inner-city areas.
Crawford is selling the houses to the D.C. Development Corp., a nonprofit corporation whose mission, as an "extended arm" of the D.C. government, is to provide housing for lower-income families. The corporation will use some city funds to purchase and rehabilitate the properties -- at a time when the city already owns more than 1,000 vacant, boarded-up housing units.
The "Crawford Homes" project was announced by then mayor Walter Washington last March at a news conference. With representatives of banks and community groups at his side, Washington announced that Crawford would receive a low-interest rehabilation loan and federal rent subsidies for his properties. Some of the houses were to be fixed up and ready for tenants by last September.
Virtually nothing has been done on the project, however, and now the D.C. Development Corp. has agreed to buy the units for $1.4 million -- $400,000 more than Crawford paid for the properties when he bought them between March 1977 and March 1978. Settlement is scheduled for Thursday.
Records show that Crawford could make a profit substantially higher than $150,000 on the sale. But Crawford said in an interview that his profit would be reduced to "No more than $150,000" because of expenses.
Crawford said those expenses included repairs to vandalized buildings, carrying charges on his mortgage loans, relocating families who were living in about 20 of the houses, and down payments. He declined to specify amounts for each.
Such questions, he said were "an infringement on my privacy. I feel very intimidated by all this... I'm not making a bundle."
His profit, Crawford said, is "reasonable, not substantial." He could get much more -- perhaps as much as $1 million, he said -- if ne sold the homes individually on the open market.
The failure to carry out the program as originally planned seems to be part of a pattern here. Announcements are made, but communities find themselves with the same abandoned, run down housing while the money the government was supposed to pump into their neighborhoods sits unused. or goes to developers.
Thomas Owen, president of Perpetual Federal Savings and Loan Association, which financed 17 of the houses in the "Crawford Homes" project said he was impressed with Crawford's project at first.
Now, however, Owen said, "If he (Crawford) comes in here again with some great-sounding idea on paper, you can bet it'll look at it a hell of a lot harder than I did the last time."
Crawford said he could not complete the project for several reasons. He said that the city's bidding process forced him to hire a contractor who was "ill prepared" to carry out the job. In addition, he said, he found his job as manager of several thousand private housing units in the city combined with his unsuccessful run for a City Council seat last year were too time-consuming.
"The political process was extremely taxing," said Crawford, who also lost a recent bid for an interim appointment to Mayor Marion Barry's old council seat. "I just didn't have the time to carry it out." He said that by selling the homes to the D.C. Development Corp., he is carrying out his commitment to preserve the homes for poor families.
The development corporation expects to get the federal rent subsidies from HUD that were allocated to Crawford, and also to receive the million-dollar low-interest loan from the city that was committed to Crawford.
In addition, Edgewood Management Corp., a company in which Crawford serves as an executive officer, has tentatively been chosen as manager of the properties that D.C. Development Corp., is buying from Crawford.
Edgewood also was to be the manager under Crawford's original project. It was to receive 6 percent of the rents on the properties as its fee, or more than $1,700 a month, according to information supplied by HUD.
Joseph D. Jackson, president of the D.C. Development Corp., said his company agreed to buy the Crawford properties because Crawford had laid the foundation for quick completion of the project. Money was already committed, and architectural plans were already drawn up, he said. That meant families could be living in the homes at an earlier date.
Jackson said his firm wanted to make certain the sale of the homes was not a windfall for Crawford before agreeing to purchase the properties. "Taking into consideration that prices have increased since he first bought the homes, we felt it ($1.4 million) was a fair price," Jackson said. "We need some more Crawfords around," he said.
Crawford's properties are situated mainly in Shaw neighborhoods, with clusters in the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Sixth Street NW, in the 600 block of R Street NW, and others on N, P and Q streets NW. A few of the properties are in Northeast.
Celia Croxton, who has lived for the last 11 years in one of the Crawford properties on Sixth Street NW said:
"They're supposed to be remodeling this house and relocating us. I'm still waiting." She said the $188 a month rent she pays, plus utilities, is too expensive and that she is looking forward to moving.
Ruth Wormley, mother of five children, lives in another of the houses on Third Street NW. "I hate to move," Wormley said. "I love this little old house. My kids are so adjusted to the area. When you move, you have to start all over again. It's difficult, you know. You don't know what could happen."
Crawford said he will help with the relocation of the remaining families. Some may be allowed to return when rehabilitation is finished, he said.
Crawford, a Democrat who grew up in Washington, was forced to resign his HUD post as head of public housing in 1976 amid allegations that he sought employment for himself with several public housing authorities before he left his government position. The Justice Department investigated the matter and found no grounds for prosecution.