Residents of ‘uninhabitable’ Hacienda to relocate after Section 8 vouchers approved

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

Residents of Richmond’s long-troubled Hacienda housing complex will soon receive Section 8 vouchers so they can move to new homes, Mayor Tom Butt’s office announced Thursday.

The approval of federal funds to relocate residents from the aging Hacienda comes nearly a year after Richmond Housing Authority (RHA) Executive Director Tim Jones called the building “uninhabitable,” a declaration that prompted Richmond City Council to seek federal approval for relocation.

The Section 8 vouchers will allow residents to relocate to privately-owned rentals, the mayor’s office said in a statement. Currently, 101 of the 150 units in the building are occupied.

Residents will also receive financial assistance for the cost of packing, moving and security deposits. RHA will also open a relocation office to assist tenants, the mayor’s office said.

The Hacienda will undergo a $20 million renovation project and current residents will be allowed to return once it is finished, according to news reports.The relocation process will take six months, and the renovation to begin afterward will take 24 months, according to the mayor.

On Friday at 3 p.m., Mayor Butt, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and Jones held a public event about the relocation process at the Hacienda complex at 1300 Roosevelt Ave.

“Officials came together from coast to coast to make this happen,” Butt said in a statement. “We knew this was a top priority and we all rolled up our sleeves to make sure the application and funding would be fast-tracked.”

In March, after Richmond council voted to relocate Hacienda residents, an “Inventory Removal Application” was prepared to notify the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to the mayor’s office. After submitting the draft application in May, local officials worked with HUD officials to produce a final application that would be approved. The final application was submitted in November and was approved by HUD last month, the mayor’s office said.

The Section 8 vouchers for Hacienda residents were approved this week, which the mayor called a quick turnaround. He said the process could have taken another four months to review. DeSaulnier was credited with helping to expedite the process.  DeSaulnier said the relocation “will allow individuals and families to immediately begin finding and settling into a better housing situation.”

“I will continue monitoring this process to ensure the timely distribution of federal funding,” DeSaulnier added.

A media investigation led by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) exposed squalid conditions at the Hacienda, including infestations of bugs, rodents and mold, ceiling leaks, broken windows and plumbing issues.

Meanwhile, CIR probed allegations of gross mismanagement of the Richmond Housing Authority, one which led to a criminal investigation into a maintenance supervisor accused of steering RHA contract money to a vendor linked to her husband. And the agency’s top officials were also accused misspending federal funds while ignoring pleas from tenants living in squalid conditions.

CIR’s reports have prompted a Contra Costa County civil grand jury investigation.