RRHA CEO responds to questions about broken heat in Creighton Court

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 8News reporter Gretchen Ross spoke with Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority CEO T.K. Somanath Wednesday about the lack of heat for residents in Creighton Court and what the organization is doing to fix the problem.

Somanath told 8News that aging, rusted pipes along with a lack of communication to senior staff are to blame for the over 50 families in Creighton Court losing heat.

As temperatures are set to dip again this weekend, Somanath said crews are expected to start fixing the issue early next week.

“Right now, in our minds, heat is our top priority,” Somanath said.

54 units in Creighton Court are currently without heat. Somanath said the problem has spread to other developments bringing the total number of units without heat to 70.

“It’s been a problem with these old pipes and radiators … boilers,” Somanath said.

Since the pipes are over 60 years old, Somanath said they become clogged and spring a leak.

The problem was discovered in October, but Somanath said it wasn’t reported to senior staff.

“Just shut the whole valve off so the ceilings don’t get wet and they come down,” Somanath said.

Even though the heat was shut off, Somanath said the space heaters were given to residents.

Those heaters, Somanath adds, provide temperatures in accordance with the lease: 68 to 75 degrees.

“I would really plead to our residents not to use the ovens,” Somanath said. “It is unsafe.”

Somanath asked that anyone who is experiencing a heating problem should contact the RRHA’s emergency phone number.

“Call our emergency number so we can really address the heating issue,” Somanath said. “We’ll assure them that in 24 hours, we’ll provide some kind of supplemental heat and see if there is any way to kind of fix their boilers or leaky pipes, or whatever it takes.”

Bids for the project were due to the authority Wednesday afternoon. Crews could start working as early as Monday.

Somanath expects it to take a month to complete, with a price tag of at least $150,000.

“We get funding from HUD every year,” Somanath said. “Capital funds. We just kind of have to re-prioritize.”

Somanath tells 8News it is no secret that heat is a problem in these aging buildings. To completely fix the crumbling infrastructure would cost the RRHA $150 million. HUD only provides about $6 million a year.

Somanath described a new possible plan to fix the problem.

“Transform these public housing units from the public housing platform to housing choice voucher program,” he said.

Gretchen Ross spoke with Hillside Court resident Gracie Jackson Tuesday who said she has been battling issues in her apartment for years. Somanath told 8News that her case will be handled within the next few days.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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