Apartment deal leads to new Henrico County approach to publicly funded housing

Hope Village off Mountain Road is set to undergo renovations.

Henrico County officials weary of public clashes with subsidized housing owners over health and safety issues struck a deal last week with the new out-of-state buyers of Hope Village to secure overdue repairs and facilitate property inspections.

The agreement — approved alongside permission the buyers need to secure financing for the project — marks a first-of-its-kind arrangement for Henrico that county leaders hope to expand to the beleaguered former Essex Village.

“This is an entirely new approach for the county,” said County Manager John Vithoulkas. “The fact that we are able to have an owner make written promises regarding ongoing maintenance, conditions of the grounds, safety of the residents and inspection of the units is key for Hope Village.”

Hope Village, a 100-unit federally subsidized apartment community off Mountain Road that saw a sewer overflow this year, was built in the 1970s and struggles with many of the issues that plagued its former sister site, Essex Village, which is now under new ownership and renamed St. Luke Apartments, county officials said.

Hope Village’s new owners signed on to the 15-year agreement as they sought approval from Henrico’s Board of Supervisors to obtain up to $13 million in tax-exempt bond financing for the project from the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Henrico doesn’t have a housing authority but state law allows the Board of Supervisors to approve the exercise by an outside authority of its powers in Henrico, said County Attorney Joe Rapisarda.

The agreement lays out what Rapisarda called a laundry list of planned improvements to be done within two years. Under the terms of the deal, all apartment units will get upgraded flooring and appliances and new paint.

Some units will have their HVAC heat pumps, water heaters and interior doors replaced. The grounds of Hope Village also are scheduled for improvements such as upgrades to lighting and pavement repairs.

“It’s been months of effort and hard work to get the board to this point,” Rapisarda said during a public hearing Tuesday.

The acquisition of Hope Village is one of a number of deals Fairstead Affordable has done recently as it enters Virginia’s low-income housing market.

Last year, it closed on a 372-unit apartment complex called Berkley Apartments in Newport News and in Richmond it recently bought Woodland Crossing’s 132 units on Walmsely Boulevard in South Side for an undisclosed amount. Byrd said plans for Woodland Crossing are still being decided as the property is evaluated.

Byrd said the Suffolk authority’s bond issuance is a portion of the financing for the project.

“We do not know a final amount for what the actual bond issuance will be at this point or have final numbers on the other financing components,” Byrd said. “It is still too early in the process to have final numbers.”

Plans the county detailed for Hope Village call for about $42,000 worth of improvements for each apartment. At 100 units, that adds up to $4.2 million worth of work, although Byrd wouldn’t say what the renovation is expected to cost.

“I like their spirit,” Thornton said in an interview. “We still need good organizations at these public housing complexes.”

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