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Richmond Housing Authority Approves Funds To Renovate Southside Apartments

RRHA Office
(Photo: Yasmine Jumaa/VPM)

Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting Wednesday at the Calhoun Center in Gilpin Court. The authority moved the meeting to a larger location following last month’s meeting during which some residents and members of the public were denied access due to occupancy restrictions.

On Wednesday, the housing agency approved the distribution of over $15 million in bonds to a private developer, Woodland Preservation LP. The funds will be used to renovate the Woodland Crossing Apartments, a 132-unit complex on Walmsley Boulevard in Southside.Construction is set to begin sometime in the next couple of months, pending an application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. RRHA and the developer said that all units in the apartment serve Section 8 voucher holders — and will continue to do so.

This is one of two expedited bond resolutions RRHA sent to City Council for expedited approval, drawing criticism from advocates who said the agency ignored public comments and didn’t allow enough time for residents’ input. 

One of those providing comment on Wednesday was Trey Peters, who raised some concerns about the impact that the agency’s business dealings with private developers could have on residents of public housing.

“As plans move forward, to move residents of the Courts on to Section 8 housing — has the board observed that Section 8 is being ended at large apartment buildings across the city at present?” Peters asked. 

Also at last night’s Board of Commissioners meeting, it was announced that RRHA didn’t receive the Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant they applied for through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The authority had hoped the $350,000 grant would help fund plans to redevelop Gilpin Court — the city’s oldest and largest public housing property. 

According to documents published by the Richmond Times Dispatch, HUD scored RRHA poorly in areas of public engagement, decision-making and planning. RRHA’s overall application scored only 41 of 102 points. 

The housing authority has been scrutinized by residents and activists for its lack of transparency as it moves forward with plans to replace public housing communities with new mixed-income developments.

The agency’s CEO Damon Duncan, who came to the position in March, said RRHA didn’t have time to prepare between his arrival and the application deadline.

“We don’t want those kinds of opportunities to come across and us not at least throw our hat in the ring,” Duncan said. 

Duncan said the agency plans to address the results with HUD, and reapply for the grant next year. 

This story has been updated to include details of RRHA’s grant application to HUD.