DC Could Begin Using DOPA As Early As February

by Nena Perry-Brown

Almost a year ago, the District Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) published preliminary rules on enacting the District Opportunity to Purchase Act (DOPA). Now, weeks after the final rules were published, there is another milestone to look forward to.

DOPA is a city-led security net for the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) law which empowers tenants with the right of first refusal to purchase their building or assign purchase rights to a third party. Although DOPA was signed into law in 2008, there was no framework by which to enact the law until November 16th of this year.

DHCD recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), soliciting potential developers to create a shortlist of partners for the city to assign its purchase rights. The application deadline is January 11th, and at an informational meeting on Wednesday this week, DHCD Housing Preservation Officer Ana van Balen expressed hope that the pre-qualified developers could be chosen within a month, allowing the District to begin expressing interest in enacting its right of second refusal as early as February.

As with TOPA, property owners planning to sell their multi-family rental buildings will send a notice to the city, which then has 30 days to inform the owner and tenants of interest in purchasing. Only properties with at least five units and where at least one-quarter of the units are either functionally or formally "affordable" for a household earning up to 50 percent of median family income will be considered eligible. 

After expressing interest in a purchase, the city would release a Request for Proposals to the list of pre-qualified developers; interested developers would submit a proposed affordability and operating plan. The TOPA process would continue on its typical timeline, and the city would only select a developer after the tenants' TOPA rights either expire or are waived. Any affordability provisions established as part of the DOPA process would be for the life of the building as a residential property, and the selected developer would be required to submit annual rent roll reports as proof.

The process is not meant to bolster tenants rights so much as to provide a fail-safe; for example, if they are in the midst of TOPA negotiations with third parties, the tenants of a given building would not be privy to the content in developers' DOPA proposals for that building unless the developers themselves shared them directly.

DHCD will hold an informational meeting for those interested in pre-qualifying as a DOPA assignee at its headquarters on December 10th.

Thumbnail image by Ted Eytan

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc-could-begin-using-dopa-as-early-as-february/14746

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