Richmond Finally Rehabbing “Uninhabitable” Public Housing Complex

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nearly one year after the city of Richmond declared the 150-unit Hacienda Public Housing Complex “uninhabitable,” residents were told last week they would be relocated over the next six months while their homes are rehabilitated. That could take two years.

The housing complex has been notoriously dilapidated for years, but the city didn’t take any effective action to help the residents until The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) profiled problems at the high-rise and the city’s four other low-income housing projects in February 2014. CIR called the Richmond Housing Authority “one of the worst public housing agencies in the country” and Hacienda its worst complex.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has had the Richmond agency on a “troubled” list since 2009. The national Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS) rated it among the nation’s 45 worst (pdf) in 2013. The Contra Costa Grand Jury reportedly began an investigation last October.

Mayor Tom Butt, who was a city councilman at the time, blamed HUD for the problems and told the Contra Costa Times in April he wasn’t convinced the problems were as bad as people said. But a month after the CIR series of stories, the city council voted to relocate the residents using federal Section 8 housing funds.

City officials submitted a draft application to HUD in May to help pay for the relocation of Hacienda tenants and tear down or restore the complex and turned in a final application in November.

Mayor Butt eventually changed his position and sounded a different note in his State of the City message on January 27. He announced that HUD approved the demolition/rehabilitation permit on January 16 and a field office OK’d the Section 8 voucher application on January 23. Final approval from Washington arrived last week.

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-California) credited HUD for its quick response in issuing the Section 8 vouchers. But CIR pointed out that HUD rejected a similar request from the city back in 2011. “I’m thrilled for the Richmond residents, and I’m sorry that they’ve had to go through this. HUD got this right,” DeSaulnier told CIR.

It will cost just over $1 million to relocate the residents and $19 million for the renovation. CBS said it will be paid for with a mix of low-income housing tax credits Section 8 money.

CBS San Francisco cited court records that Hacienda residents filed a civil lawsuit against the Richmond Housing Authority 15 months ago for civil rights abuses. A hearing is scheduled in March.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Neglected Housing Project to Be Emptied Within 6 Months, Officials Say (by Amy Julia Harris, The Center for Investigative Reporting)

Residents of “Uninhabitable” Hacienda to Relocate after Section 8 Vouchers Approved (by Mike Aldax, Richmond Standard)

Residents of Dilapidated Richmond Public Housing Complex Get Federal Vouchers to Relocate (CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service)

Should Hacienda Residents Sue the Richmond Housing Authority? (by Sean Pyles, Radio Free Richmond)

Richmond Stumbles Through a Slow-Motion Public Housing Disaster (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Leave a comment