In recent weeks, the Richmond Housing Authority has been under fire for mismanagement and neglect of it public housing properties, which serve families in 715 units.
According to the Center of Investigative Reporting, reports released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, indicate there have been 16 life-threatening safety violations in the past two years; and there have been continuous reports of rats, roaches, mold and leaks.
Despite the public outcry, all the reports of mismanagement has so far failed to bring change, according to Councilmember Nat Bates, a candidate for mayor.
He says the city has known about the housing issues for years, but there hasn’t been any action. While he appreciates the media shedding light on the problem, he says still nothing has been done.
“All we do is bojangle – stepping, shucking, and jiving,” said Bates, who wants to see the constant stream of meeting and discussion lead to concrete results.
“The Housing Authority staff is predominantly African American, tenant groups are predominantly African American, and we have management staff treating our own people like dogs,” said Bates. “It is an embarrassment.”
Mayoral candidate Uche J. Uwahemu says that the housing authority problem highlights the city’s ineffective leadership.
“The condition of our public housing is embarrassing and clearly shows the gap between leadership and the poor,” said Uwahemu.
Both Uwahemu and Bates argue that Richmond’s Housing Authority is in need of a “competent” housing director.
Tim Jones, executive director of Richmond’s Housing Authority, was contacted for comment but declined to comment.
Jones’ failure to respond angered Bates. “If he has nothing to say he should be gone out the door,” he said.
Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles wrote an opinion piece, published in the Bay View about the housing authority crisis. She says it is a symptom of bigger issues affecting residents in the city.
“As long as income disparity remains egregiously high, people will struggle with housing and there will be public housing,” wrote Beckles.” As long as there is public housing, we the stewards of the public funds must be vigilant in ensuring that it is responsibly and respectfully managed.”