A Montgomery County housing official told residents of the Georgian Towers complex in Silver Spring this week that the county will probably not exercise its new right under state law to act as the residents' agent in submitting a counter offer to buy the buildings. The complex's owners plan to convert the 12-year-old, 858-unit building to condominium ownership.
Housing official Victor Brescia told 500 residents of the Georgia Avenue high-rise that in order to counter the impending $31 million sale, they would have to find a private codeveloper willing to assist with the needed $1 million down payment. He told them he thought their chances were "very slim."
"I don't think it's possible to make such a large decision on such a large building within the 30 days remaining" for the county to act as an agent for the tenants, he said. County offcials were notified last month of plans to sell the 14-story red brick structure by the building's owners, Georgian Associates.
Boykin Associates, a group headed by Lykes M. Boykin, president of McLean's Panorama Realty, has entered into a contract to purchase the buildings with a $1 million down payment and hefty monthly mortgage payments of $475,000.
Tenants have two months to exercise their right of first refusal by matching the Boykin contract. State law allows the county to step in for them 30 days before the period is over, using money raised by the tenant association.
At the Tuesday night meeting, many of the tenants complained that they have had to move repeatedly as buildings are sold out from under them.
"I am a condo refugee," said 25-year Montgomery County resident Gert Karton, who moved to the building north of Colesville Road two years ago when her old place was converted to condominium ownership.
"You've got some two- or three-time losers" trying to hold onto scarce moderate-cost rental apartments in the affluent county, observed Irving Hurwitz, housing conservation manager for the Montgomery County housing opportunities commission.
Rents at the complex range from $315 to $547 a month.
Despite the recent slowdown in condominium conversions due to astronomical interset rates, Hurwitz predicted a new rise in the conversion rate. He cited the announcement concerning Georgian Towers, one of Montgomery County's largest rental projects, as evidence of that trend.
"I think we're going to see a lot more going on in the next few months," he said. "Who the hell figured a guy's going to convert an 858-unit building for $31 million," under current economic conditions, Hurwitz said.
A stream of Georgian Towers residents crossed the street to the Holiday Inn Tuesday night to learn of their options in the impending conversion. There they received a mixed message from a team of Montgomery County housing specialists.
The tenants were told once the legal hurdles were over, Boykin Associates plans to "move fairly quickly" to convert their buildings from rental to purchase apartments.
But the county officials stressed to the tenants they would have at least 180 days from when formal legal notice of the conversion is received before any of them would have to leave. Some of the complex's elderly residents would be able to remain, officials said, because state law requires that 20 percent of the units be kept as rental apartments.