August 22, 2002
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has announced a number of rent concessions to residents of the Hunting Towers and Hunting Terrace complexes.
VDOT received verbal approval for the policy changes from the Federal Highway Administration earlier this week. A meeting that was scheduled to take place on Aug. 15, was canceled because federal approval had not yet been obtained. That meeting has now been rescheduled for Thursday, Aug. 22, at which time VDOT will present the new policies to the tenants.
"VDOT HAS adopted these policies which will benefit all residents of the Hunting Tower and Hunting Terrace apartment complexes,” said Renaldo “Nick” Nicholson, VDOT’s Woodrow Wilson replacement bridge project manager.
“With these actions, VDOT hopes to start anew in its relationship with residents by making tangible adjustments in their rents, ensure there is rent equity between longer-term and new tenants, and reflect the reality that construction has an impact on the livability of the complex.”
According to a fact sheet that was prepared by VDOT, rents will be rolled back to the level at which they existed when VDOT purchased the properties in November 2001.
Tenants whose rent has increased since that time will receive refunds of amounts that were paid above and beyond this level between December 2001 and August 2002. Rents will also be capped at the December 1, 2001, level until the first quarter of 2005, at which time the situation will be reassessed.
TO ADDRESS rent equity, VDOT will reduce long-term tenants’ rents by the amount of the incentive that is, or was being offered to new tenants. This will apply to types of apartments where vacancy rates have been particularly high. This will be offered only to tenants who are willing to sign new one-year leases and a waiver acknowledging that the buildings are part of an ongoing construction project.
Ardith Dentzer is the president of the Hunting Towers Hunting Terrace Tenants Association. The group has worked with VDOT concerning these issues since April.
“I have not had an opportunity to study these policy changes adequately, so it is a little hard for me to comment,” Dentzer said. “However, my initial reaction is that I am very glad that VDOT is willing to make these changes, but I don’t think they go far enough. Those whose rents were increased in October 2001, for example, will not reap the benefits of the rent rollback to November.
"Also, the issue of rent equity is still not resolved in my mind. I have a number of long-term tenants who are paying a lot more than new tenants because Kay Management raised the rents so precipitously before VDOT bought the property. That still needs to be addressed.”
DENTZER WAS TO HAVE MET with her executive board before the Aug. 22 meeting to discuss the changes. “I feel really caught betwixt and between,” Dentzer said. “On the one hand, I understand the state’s precarious economic position and don’t want to add to the problem. On the other hand, the tenants here are suffering economically, as well. Perhaps if VDOT took away some of the layers of management of the buildings, they could pass on more of that savings to us.
"We have three landlords – VDOT, Potomac Crossing and Kay Management, all of whom are being paid out of taxpayer dollars. There are too many hands in the pot, and it certainly isn’t making the buildings better.”
City officials who have been advocating for these changes had also not seen the new policies.
“I heard that the Federal Highway Administration had approved the changes but haven’t seen anything formal,” said Mayor Kerry J. Donley. He plans to attend the meeting on Thursday.