Uninhabitable Hacienda remains occupied; story becomes teaching moment for journalists

Residents of Richmond's Hacienda housing development continue to live in an uninhabitable building.
The counter above is one of many interactive tools the Center for Investigative Reporting used to illustrate the plight of residents living in the 'uninhabitable' Hacienda housing development.

While residents of Richmond’s Hacienda housing development continue to live in a building that was deemed uninhabitable more than 200 days ago, the story revealing deplorable conditions there has become a teaching moment for U.S. journalists.

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), which broke the story that mismanagement and neglect at the Richmond Housing Authority had left the city’s most vulnerable residents in squalid conditions, posted an instructional article for fellow journos on Sept. 4 about how it turned public housing inspections into a “visual exploration.”

CIR’s web segment, Journey through Hacienda, includes a counter showing how much time has elapsed since the Hacienda was deemed uninhabitable on Feb. 18. The most interesting and complex feature allows readers to click on individual units of the building and find out exactly what inspectors discovered inside.

Online tool from Center for Investigative Reporting allows you to see issues inside Hacienda unitsThe tool makes it easier to visualize the conditions many seniors and disabled have been living in, such as the presence of mold, mice, roaches and unsafe conditions including windows that won’t open or close and exposed wiring.

Meanwhile, Richmond residents are becoming impatient. A post in Radio Free Richmond claimed outrage over an apparent silence from city leaders.

“Six months on from the initial flurry of stories and outrage — and three months past the supposed move-out date — little has changed,” the blog stated Saturday. “New stories of administrative corruption have surfaced, but the tenants of Hacienda remain living in squalor.”

Then on Monday, two days after the Radio Free Richmond published its post, Councilmember Tom Butt publicly released an update from Housing Authority Executive Director Tim Jones on his agency’s progress with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). (The update is posted below.)

Butt also told the Richmond Standard the city is “doing exactly what the City Council directed” in terms of efforts to relocate Hacienda residents.

“But with all government actions, it is proceeding on HUD’s schedule,” the councilmember said.

According to Butt, Jones says Hacienda residents are less upset these days, particularly since the hiring of a new resident housing manager, Marcus Moore, who moved in Aug. 18.

“He has already made substantial improvement in general resident maintenance requests and the building’s parking lot,  exterior and perimeter,” Butt said. “He was raised in Richmond and knows many of the resident’s families.”