Voluntary agreements between low-cost rental housing residents, building owners, and real estate developers are reshaping the demographics of Washington, D.C. at a rapid rate, Annys Shin writes in ‘The Washington Post’. Demand for upscale rentals is continually increasing in the city, so developers are looking for ways to acquire more buildings to renovate old apartments to meet that demand. Voluntary agreements, Shin writes, allow building owners to raise rents while avoiding long-term court battles with tenants. Instead of raising all tenants’ rents, building owners simply offer the long-standing tenants a buyout, which if they can accept or decide to stay in their apartment unit at a rent-controlled rate. This way, new tenants can move in to upgraded, newly renovated units, while previous tenants stay in the original units at a lower cost. The idea seems simple enough, but as these agreements become more pervasive throughout the city, tenants who choose not to take the buyout are starting to see the downside of the agreement. “Schwat said that he warned the remaining residents that the renovations would be messy and unpleasant for them,” Shin says, “but that they didn’t fully appreciate what it would be like.”

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