Richmond public housing problems to be revisited Tuesday

Grand jury offers harsh critique on Richmond Housing Authority
Hacienda housing complex

City Council on Tuesday will continue to address deplorable conditions at Richmond public housing developments.

Council is set to decide whether an independent investigator should be hired to probe allegations that the Richmond Housing Authority habitually fails to address work orders for building repairs and other tenant requests.

The independent investigator would report its findings and recommendations directly to the Richmond Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners.

Problems at Richmond’s housing developments, particularly at the 150-unit Haciena, were highlighted in a recent investigative news series by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), which collaborated with the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED.

The news series accused the Housing Authority of gross mismanagement after filming deplorable conditions at the Hacienda, the development with the most problems. Bugs, rodents, mold, ceiling leaks and plumbing issues were just some of the documented issues. The conditions were allegedly ignored by a management team that spent “lavishly” while ignoring the basic needs of tenants, according to the reports.

Also, the Housing Authority is reportedly $7 million in the red and could be taken over by the federal government if things don’t improve.

City Manager Bill Lindsay and some councilmembers defended the Housing Authority by calling the CIR investigation sensational and based upon old facts. They contend the authority was already on the road to recovery when the news series pointed out the issues.

Other councilmembers say the problems have been ignored for years, continue to be, and that it’s time for new management to take over the Housing Authority.

All parties, however, admitted the city’s public housing issues require immediate attention.

Last week, Lindsay unveiled a plan to address the issues that includes the possibility of tearing down the Hacienda and relocating residents to other properties that are slated for significant renovation.

The independent audit of all public housing units is part of Lindsay’s plan. The housing authority operates five buildings including the 150-unit Hacienda (built in 1966); the 142-unit Nevin Plaza (1986); the 58-unit Friendship Manor (1976); the 98-unit Triangle Court (1987); and the 102-unit Nystrom Village (1942).

Below is one of the news reports that caused the latest uproar over public housing conditions: