RRHA nears first goal to fix heat; finds additional units with heating problems

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As RRHA approaches its deadline to restore heat to 35 Creighton Court units, 8News wanted to check in on the progress.

Right now, the pace for RRHA to install baseboard electric heat is nine units a week.

A total of 28 apartments are finished to date. The first goal was to have 35 ready by tomorrow.

Interim RRHA CEO Orlando Artze said the project is only behind on those numbers by a few days.

Artze told 8News that by the weekend the contractor should have 37 apartments with new heat installed.

As the project at Creighton keeps moving, the authority staff are also addressing heating issues in 333 units throughout the housing communities.

Maintenance crews have visited each unit, working to figure out the problems with the radiators. Artze says the staff have encountered simple issues such as draining a radiator or repairing a valve. Maintenance could run into some blockage with a pipe underground, something that may require the city to hire outside work.

“These are systems that are in some cases 50 or 60 years old,” said Artze.  “There is a useful life to a boiler and to pipes and in a lot of cases we’re coming to the end of useful life.”

Artze said crews have been able to fix issues at 160 units with no additional cost, and he should know the price tag for the remaining apartments by the end of the week.

As the authority looks to future projects, the federal dollars may not be there.

If the Department of Housing and Urban Development receives an eight billion dollar cut, the RRHA could lose millions in funding and residents will have to wait even longer for repairs. This reality has Artze scrambling to come up with a plan.

“Try to keep the heat on in these apartments,” said Artze.  “Keep the hot water going. Stop the roofs from leaking. So instead of being able to replace roofs when they are needed. We are going to need to patch them up essentially. So it does not bode well.”

For the first time, residents in Creighton Court are able to control their own heat, but soon projects like these could end up being a dream instead of a reality for RRHA. The reason: budget cuts.

“The proposed 2018 budget is truly devastating,”Artze.  “What it does is completely eliminates this capital fund.”

Artze told 8News that one budget cut would wipe out over six million dollars needed to make major renovations.

“If that fund is eliminated you know completely..we are really without any resources to be able to make any kind of long term repairs,” said Artze.

Artze tells 8News that without that money, RRHA will have to rely solely on the maintenance budget of around $18 million. That money is also expected to be on the chopping block.

Right now RRHA receives 3,000 work orders a month.With cuts looming, repair requests for leaky faucets will have to wait.

“Some cases items that we were able to take care of in a week you know or two weeks because they were not high priority items,” said Artze.  “It may now take several months.”

In response, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney joined other mayors around the nation signing a letter to Congress asking for even more money for public housing.

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