Mehri & Skalet represented the Tenants’ Association at Columbia Heights Village and succeeded in preserving one of the largest Section 8 low-income housing developments in the District of Columbia, saving more than 800 residents from displacement. Furthermore M&S helped create an opportunity for the Tenants’ Association to acquire a significant interest in the property which will ensure that it can continue to be available for low-income residents for years to come.

Real estate appreciation in Columbia Heights and adjoining neighborhoods pressured the majority owner to put the property up for sale. With its favorable location and excellent physical condition, the price for Columbia Heights Village rose to an astronomical $28 million, at least $10 million more than expected. But if the property charged rents commensurate with this sale price, the residents would have been forced to leave, facing the dubious prospect of finding affordable housing elsewhere at a time when Section 8 rental units were scarce.

We worked with the Tenants’ Association, community representatives, real estate financiers, and federal regulators to help the Tenants’ Association implement a unique long-term solution. A new, independent entity, known as Change-All Souls Development Corporation, was created to purchase and renovate the property with $42 million in housing finance funds obtained through a District of Columbia bond issuance. The Tenants’ Association was given three seats on the board of the new corporation, giving residents input into property management and operations.

This success can serve as a template for future low-income housing preservation efforts.