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The owners at 1262 Talbert SE are tired, angry, stressed, hurt and want justice. On Wednesday, May 24, at 1 p.m., many of the 46 displaced Grandview Condominium owners will hold a protest rally to ensure their voices are heard.
Tragically, their lifelong dreams of homeownership have been deferred after their homes were declared uninhabitable by the District because of poor construction by Stanton View Development, which filed for bankruptcy in April 2021. They were forced to leave their homes the following September, with less than two weeks’ notice.
For close to two years, they have resided with their families in apartments, with assistance from the District government.
These former residents are not happy overall with the response by the D.C. government since they were forced to vacate their homes with less than two weeks’ notice in September 2021. They question the thoroughness of the local government’s approval process for selecting developers. Others vow to never try and purchase another home again in the District, even with the homeownership assistance available to them.
And while Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) office, via the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), has been engaged in efforts to resolve these issues associated with Grandview Condominiums, some are questioning why she herself has not made a site visit, or met with them in person. Last summer, Mayor Bowser participated in a Zoom with them.
Former Homeowners in Pain
The average mortgage on Talbert Street for the dislocated homeowners is $1,200, plus $280 in condominium fees.
When you visit the home of Norika Hill, 33, you immediately see the real impact of what “uninhabitable” and “dreams deferred” has meant to her and her son. As you walk around, the carpeting is soaked, and the smell of mold and mildew are prominent. Yet, you can visualize that it was once a happy home environment.
Hill is concerned with how much longer the District will offer rent assistance: “We were recently told [it will end in] December and that we’re not going to pay your rent forever. That statement by a city official was hurtful.”
Shannon Thomas said her son feels the sting of being removed from his home.
“My son took his first steps in his bedroom. Every time we drive past our home, he shares how much he misses his bedroom. And it just breaks my heart. In fact, it was in his bedroom that we first noticed a problem. He told me his floor, which was carpeted, was wet. My first inclination was that he had spilled something. Unfortunately, he had not.”
“I bought a condo for myself and daughter,” stated Yvonne Lawson, 32. “What exactly is the city’s process for approving developers and inspectors? The mayor, once we had that meeting with her last summer, said it was her goal to make us whole.”
Response of D.C. Government
D.C. DHCD has offered to:
- Buy out or otherwise assume the first trust mortgage of each owner and assume responsibility of the site to bring a resolution and fresh start to Grandview homeowners.
- Forgive current Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) and Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) combined loans of approximately $6.4 million ($4 million HPTF and $2.4 million HPAP), and reinstate HPAP eligibility to all homeowners, regardless of current income.
- Allow homeowners to utilize HPAP for their next home purchase without having to go through the initial steps of the program again.
- Provide comprehensive housing counseling support through one of its community-based organization partners that specialize in homeownership programs.
- Offer the first right of purchase of any homeownership opportunities that result in redevelopment of the property.
- Stabilize the property retaining wall and work to determine the feasibility of redeveloping it.
- Introduce legislation to “undertake these actions in support of the residents.”
What Do They Want?
Hill, Thomas and Lawson are tired of renting. They want to move and become homeowners again, and not continue to rent.
While living on Talbert Street, each met their financial obligations as homeowners while living under structurally unsafe and environmentally hazardous conditions. They also want the local government to pay them at current market value, and not the original prices of purchase. There is a collective sense that the District has failed each of them.
In short, these young women want their lives made whole.