The Deauville apartment building in Washington, D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood was partially destroyed and left uninhabitable after a devastating fire in March 2008. 

Adrian Fenty, the mayor at the time, made a commitment to return the residents to the property at rents they could afford. Almost seven years later, in November 2014, the renamed Monsenor Romero Apartments celebrated its grand opening.

Forty of the original households displaced by the fire have returned to the new, service-enriched housing, which is named after the assassinated El Salvadorian Catholic Church bishop who was a champion of the poor and spoke out against poverty and social injustice.

At the time of the fire, the residents were involved in many disputes with the building owner, who had been trying to unfairly evict them so he could convert the structure into luxury housing. After the fire, the resident group and its pro bono attorney brought in Washington, D.C.-based National Housing Trust (NHT)/Enterprise Preservation Corp. to help purchase and redevelop the vacant building.

At that time, the city was strapped for cash and was only able to commit enough money to secure the building. Finally, in 2012, NHT/Enterprise Preservation Corp. was awarded low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) for the $19.5 million, 63-unit project.

A goal of the redevelopment was to keep rents affordable for the returning residents with hardships.

“The tenants had been organized and were a unified group,” says Rob Richardson, development manager. “When they thought about their futures, it was important to them that everyone could return.”

Rents for returning households are set based upon 30% of a household’s income, with the creation of an internal subsidy program. The structure is subject to a minimum rent floor and a cap of 60% area median income (AMI) LIHTC rents. In addition, there are other safety nets in place for the returning residents who might be facing hardships. The remainder of the units are set aside for households earning 60% of AMI.