RRHA negotiating plan to turn over 11 properties to private company

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 4/12/2019, 6 a.m.
The city’s housing authority is on the verge of giving a New Jersey-based company control of 11 smaller apartment complexes ...

The city’s housing authority is on the verge of giving a New Jersey-based company control of 11 smaller apartment complexes that house families and the elderly as part of its larger plan to modernize public housing by turning over ownership to private companies.

The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority has quietly issued a notice of its plan to award The Michaels Organization of Marlton, N.J., control of the 11 properties that collectively provide 533 apartments, located mostly in South Side.

On its website, TMO states that the 40-year-old company operates in 35 states, operates 400 communities, manages 53,000 existing apartments and has developed 55,000 more apartments.

The company states that its vision is to create “a beautiful, bustling place to call home” and that its mission is to offer “comprehensive solutions … that jumpstart housing, education, civic engagement and neighborhood prosperity.”

Corey J. Wolfe, RRHA’s general counsel, confirmed that RRHA and TMO are in talks to finalize a deal. He said details would not be released until RRHA’s Board of Commissioners approves development agreements.

If all goes well, this would be one of the larger efforts RRHA has undertaken in transforming public housing, though far from the first. The authority already has replaced public housing in Blackwell in South Side and Dove Court in North Side and is in the first stage of a process to renovate or replace the 504-unit Creighton Court in the East End.

The 11 complexes include six in South Side: The 40-unit Afton Avenue apartments; the 18-unit Bainbridge family apartments; the 24-unit Decatur apartments for the elderly; the 50-unit Melvin C. Fox Manor apartments for the elderly; the 30-unit Oscar E. Stovall Apartments for families; and the 70-unit Stonewall Place apartments for the elderly.

The five other complexes include the 64-unit Fulton apartments in the East End; the 75-unit Lombardy apartments for the elderly and the 52-unit Randolph Apartments for families, both in the West End; and the 105-unit Fourth Avenue apartments for the elderly and 25-unit Old Brook Circle apartments for the elderly in North Side.

The plan is for the company to renovate the properties and create an ownership entity with RRHA to manage the properties, according to RRHA’s request for proposals.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which owns public housing in Richmond and across the country, is encouraging RRHA and other housing authorities that manage the properties to convert to a private ownership model as congressional funds for maintenance of public housing shrink.

Under this approach, RRHA would retain a stake in the property, but private companies would receive a government subsidy for each unit to enable low-income tenants to continue to live there.

The pending sell-off of the 11 properties is based on the HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program and follows the model that RRHA is using to replace the 200 units in its Fay Towers senior high rise in Gilpin Court. Those units are being replaced with modern apartments in three developments that RRHA’s nonprofit partner, the Community Preservation and Development Corp. of Washington, is handling.