- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The 82 families forced from their Mount Pleasant apartment building by a devastating fire began moving into more permanent housing yesterday, District officials said.

The roughly 200 residents who have registered for assistance had been staying in hotels in the city or with family and friends since the five-alarm fire destroyed the Winston Apartments and heavily damaged the nearby Meridian Hill Baptist Church March 13. The total damage is estimated at $20 million.

The Red Cross will pay the first month rents, Jo’Ellen Countee, D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokeswoman, said yesterday.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, said last week the city will pay rent subsidies up to two years, which could amount to $275,000. The city also will help pay for the displaced residents — including many low-income families — to move into the more permanent housing, Ms. Countee said.

Mr. Fenty also said the District would work with owners of the apartments, in the 3100 block of Mount Pleasant Street Northwest, to set reasonable rents when renovations are expended to be completed in about two years.

Ms. Countee said displaced residents will have three options from which to choose to live for at least two years.

She said some of the options will be within the largely Hispanic community and near Bancroft Elementary School, where many of the children attend classes.

The cause of the fire, which started in the northeast corner of the basement, had not yet been determined as of yesterday, said D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter.

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