For Richmond supports new plan to address city’s blighted properties

Investors vow to 'immediately' re-file lawsuit if Richmond, Calif. mayor's stalled eminent domain proposal is revived.

A new proposal to rehabilitate hundreds of blighted homes in Richmond has gained support from the nonprofit For Richmond, which said in a blog post Wednesday it wants to connect the plan with local workers.

The strategy, pitched by prominent attorney and Richmond resident John Knox, would rehab and resell hundreds of properties through so-called social impact bonds.

The city would issue bonds, then loan the money to the nonprofit Richmond Community Foundation, which would buy blighted homes, rehab them and sell them to lower-income homeowners. The bonds would be targeted to investors who wouldn’t mind a smaller profit as long as their investment has a social impact.

Last week, Richmond City Council voted in favor of exploring the proposal.

For Richmond President and CEO Jim Becker is touting the strategy’s potential to provide lower-income residents a path into the housing market. In Wednesday’s blog, Becker said For Richmond could help connect the program with local building trade unions.

Willie Hicks, For Richmond’s jobs chair and president of Laborers Local 324, called the strategy “an interesting idea” that will “create the jobs our residents badly need.”

Knox’s proposal is still in the planning stages. The San Francisco law firm where he is a partner, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, is working pro bono to develop the idea.