Eight months into the administration of Mayor Barry, his predecessor's sleepy housing policies keep coming back to haunt City Hall. That is why we're reading only now that the last of 14 homes at Logan Circle -- which were acquired by the city back in the early 1970s -- has finally been sold at an absurdly low price to an investor whose record as a lardlord is hardly exemplary. The idea -- as opposed to how it has worked out at the circle -- goes back to a federal program devised in 1964 at a time when many middle-class people were fleeing the cities. To help people who couldn't otherwise afford to rehabilitate homes in blighted neighborhoods, there would be low-interest loans; and as part of the Logan Circle bargain, each purchaser would agree to rent an apartment in the fixed-up home to a family qualifying for federal rent subsidies.
But time had a way of flying under the feet of the last administration, and it wasn't until last year that 13 of the 14 homes were sold -- at their 1975 appraised values. To complicate things, the city tentatively agreed to a peculiar arrangement for the remaining home. The head of a real-estate firm, who was running for a city council seat from Ward 6, would buy it if she lost and didn't have to keep living in that ward. She did lose -- and so did the city, for as a report now reveals, one of the other properties she rents is a mess: Floors are about to give out, plaster is falling and there are leaks in the ceiling.
City officials today say there is little that can be done about the mistakes of the last administration at Logan Circle. But the lessons shouldn't be lost on them: Renovation and relocation programs in this city are sensitive enough issues without the aggravations of government inaction, failure to check out prospective buyers thoroughly and unusual sales arrangements that reward poor rental management.