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D.C. Steps in to Buy At-Risk Affordable Housing

In the interest of preserving affordable supply, the District can purchase apartment buildings that would otherwise sell to private developers.
December 19, 2017, 5am PST | Elana Eden
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Chad Zuber

In Washington, D.C., tenants can prevent the sale of an apartment building by banding together to buy it themselves. The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) is D.C.'s "best known tenant protection legislation," Carolyn Gallaher writes. But it also has a lesser known sibling that has never been used: the District Opportunity to Purchase Act (DOPA).

"It was designed as a safety net for TOPA. If tenants could not make TOPA work, the city could refuse the sale and preserve the building as affordable housing. In other words, if the tenants' attempt (TOPA) fails, the District (DOPA) would step in and act like a tenant association would: strike a bargain with a developer and preserve some affordable homes."

DOPA passed in 2008, but officials are only now writing implementation regulations. In Greater Greater Washington, Gallaher outlines the different ways the law could play out—covering what might merit public intervention in a building sale, whether the city would partner with a developer or become the building's landlord, and more.

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Published on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 in Greater Greater Washington
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