Columbia Plaza may get special consideration for housing lottery

GW officials said Friday they are considering adding Columbia Plaza apartments to the spring housing lottery, although the University originally classified the acquisition as an investment purchase.

It is being considered, Director of Housing Andrew Sonn said. But we have a few more months of planning.

The University purchased about 29 percent of the complex in February as investment property – property the University owns, but does not change the use of, GW Senior Counsel Charles Barber said.

For an apartment building, Barber said, so long as we don’t change the rental policies to exclude non-students, it remains an apartment building and remains as an investment property.

The University has entered into a special licensing agreement with the building’s property managers as part of the original arrangement. When an apartment in the building is vacated, building management first offers it to the University.

GW then has a period of about a week to respond, choosing to add the apartment to one under their control, or refusing, and allowing the apartment to be placed on the open market, Barber said. If the University accepts the apartment, it is offered to GW students, faculty and staff through the Community Living and Learning Center’s Columbia Plaza Housing Program, Barber said.

Any student eligible for campus housing, graduate student, faculty or staff member can apply with the CLLC program to live in Columbia Plaza. But students cannot break their on-campus housing lease to move into a Columbia Plaza apartment under the program, Sonn said.

GW is only allowed to control an equivalent of their share of property ownership – about 29 percent of rooms in the complex – through this process.

Including Columbia Plaza in the lottery could pose a legal problem for the University. Members of the community who oppose GW’s influence in the building could argue that designating the building as a residence hall alters the building’s status as an investment property.

As far as what we would do and what we can do and what is possible, I just don’t know, said Marilyn Rubin, president of the Columbia Plaza Tenants Association.

Rubin said she is unaware of any plans to add Columbia Plaza to GW’s residence hall lottery.

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