How hectic was this year's record-breaking District housing lottery? So hectic that two weeks after the Aug. 31 event, program director Lynn C. French still hadn't had a chance to get to the dentist to have a tooth replaced.
So hectic that one Homestead Housing Preservation Program employee was rushed to the hospital with heart palpitations after an all-night shift. She returned to work with a heart monitor so she could continue processing the thousands of lottery applications.
In only two months 15,000 applications were distributed and 2,500 people were cleared for participation.
Why so hectic? The heat was on, French said, because on June 30 the Department of Housing and Urban Development suddenly granted the District's longtime request to release 322 former public housing properties. Of those, 68 abandoned properties would go into the lottery this year. Another 78 HUD properties are being handed over to a consortium of nonprofit groups that will renovate and sell them. And 24 occupied houses will be sold directly to eligible tenants. The remaining block of HUD houses will be considered for next year's lottery.
HUD had long imposed on the District its rule that every unit of public housing removed from the rolls be replaced by another unit of public housing, but it was won over by the city's lobbying to return the properties to the tax rolls.
The city had spent months preparing notebooks on each property in anticipation of HUD's approval. The Architectural Research Institute at the University of the District of Columbia donated detailed drawings of each structure and outlined what must be done to meet the housing code. It also estimated the cost of repairs, within a range.
Once HUD had agreed, French wanted to advertise the drawing for a month, hold the event Aug. 31 and clear winners for settlement by Sept. 30, before the fiscal year ended. That way the city could make available $10,000 interest-free renovation loans for low- and moderate-income homesteaders.
"We weren't going to let that money slip away," French said.
At press time, she said, the multi-layer process of clearing winners for the loans and for renovation financing--as well as for settlement--was proceeding apace. About a third of the winners have qualified for the District Housing Finance Agency's low-interest construction loans. The other winners are being steered to banks for speedy construction-loan processing.
Those who show financial impediments, such as repossessed cars or previously undetected credit problems, have the choice of paying off the debts or dropping out, French said.
Last week the agency was once again working around the clock. "They'll all settle next week," she said. "All of them."