The Cranky Taxpayer

RRHA

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No Wonder
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 According to the RRHA Web site, the Authority houses 9609 of Richmond's citizens.  That is 4.9% of the 2000 Richmond population (197,790).  

Richmond's vice data, discussed elsewhere in these pages, show that a remarkable amount of Richmond's vice offenses take place on RRHA properties.

In terms of the count of vice reports for 2013, RRHA has six (and perhaps up to eight) of the top twenty blocks in the City.

Block Count What's There
1100 Block ST JOHN ST 33 RRHA
6300 Block Midlothian Tpke 29 Commercial
1300 Block Drewry St 24 1 block from RRHA
1900 Block REDD ST 23 RRHA
2000 Block CREIGHTON ROAD 19 RRHA
4900 Block CHAMBERLAYNE AVE 19 Apartments
2300 Block SELDEN ST 18 RRHA
4100 Block W GRACE ST 18 Thomas Jefferson High School
3900 Block CHAMBERLAYNE AVE 17 Apartments
1300 Block Coalter St 16 Apartments
3800 Block CHAMBERLAYNE AVE 16 Apartments
5800 Block Orcutt Lane 16 Apartments
1200 Block ST JOHN ST 15 RRHA
200 Block W GRACE ST 14 Police Headquarters
2900 Block CHAMBERLAYNE AVE 14 Commercial & Apartments
4000 Block MIDLOTHIAN TPKE 14 Apartments
4200 Block OLD BROOK ROAD 14 Apartments
4300 Block CHAMBERLAYNE AVE 14 Apartments
1200 Block MOSBY ST 13 1 block from RRHA
2200 Block N 26TH ST 13 RRHA

To get another look at the density of the crime at RRHA, I have calculated the number of offense reports per apartment unit at all of the six, large RRHA developments and at several private apartment operations for the period from 1/1/00 to 4/30/03:

Name Address Offenses per Yr Apts. Rate
Malvern Manor Malvern at Cary 44 13.2 276 0.048
Abbey Square 3918-20 Chamberlayne 61 18.3 60 0.31
NorthCourt 3914 Chamberlayne 22 6.6 20 0.33
Mosby   995 298.5 458 0.65
Gilpin   1741 522.4 783 0.67
Creighton   1384 415.2 504 0.82
Hillside   1349 404.7 458 0.88
Fairfield   1437 431.1 447 0.96
Midlo Village 4000 Midlo Tpk 776 232.8 216 1.08
Whitcomb   1645 493.5 447 1.10
Redwood 3916 Chamberlayne 169 50.7 24 2.11

(I would gladly update these old data but RPD has made it impossible.  They now report all addresses by the block, so I can't distinguish particular addresses.  And their computer won't let me download more than a few thousand reports at a time, which makes any attempt at the analysis a great frustration.)

The "Rate" column reports the number of offense reports per apartment unit per year.  As you see, the infamous Redwood produced 50.7 offense reports per year, i.e., 2.11 per apartment per year(!).  The similarly infamous Midlothian Village produced 1.08 per apartment.

For comparison, this table also includes data from two other apartments in the Combat Zone on Chamberlayne Ave.  Finally, the Malvern Manor results indicate what the offense rate looks like in a quiet neighborhood.

Here are the same data in a graph:

There are important lessons to be learned here from the Northcourt and Abbey Square apartments (3914 and 3918-20 Chamberlayne).  Both of those places have low-price, one-bedroom apartments and both draw transient tenants who do not have a lot of money.  They are located on either side of the notorious Redwood in the tenderloin of the Combat Zone on Chamberlayne Ave.  In the late '90's, they both suffered from crime at rates approaching that of the Redwood itself.  In both cases new management took over and took control and cleaned up the crime, with the results you see above.

The Justice Department monograph, Keeping Illegal Activity Out of Rental Property: A Police Guide for Establishing Landlord Training Programs, tells us:

Effective property management can significantly benefit the health of a community and that accessible, legitimate techniques can stop the spread of drug activity on rental property. . . .

Landlords are the first line of defense when a tenant's lease-violating behavior threatens neighborhood livability

Our experience on Chamberlayne Ave. supports those statements: The landlord is the key to cleaning up crime in rental property.

In public, RRHA talks a good game about public safety.  For example, their web site says they are “dedicated” to “promoting safety in public housing communities and working closely with residents and city police in preventing crime.”

RRHA's performance contradicts that whopper.  Indeed, when I have pressed RRHA about evicting the tenants who harbor the disorder on their property, they have said to me:

·       Legal Aid makes it difficult to do anything;

·       The judges are reluctant to enforce the lease;

·        It would be “onerous” to ask RRHA staff to follow up on all offense reports and calls for service; and

·        Given the quality of the people who live in subsidized housing, RRHA can’t be expected to do much better.

These self-serving excuses (including that offensive falsehood at the end of the list) cannot justify RRHA’s ongoing maintenance of a public nuisance here in our city.

According to their auditor's report, they don't have control of their money, either. 

More recently, they have told me that about 80% of their tenants are women (most with children) and that evicting these tenants would leave the children homeless.  Both of those statements are true but beside the point: RRHA has a large waiting list; doubtless there are decent, honest people on that list who do not enjoy housing subsidies from RRHA.  Yet RRHA refuses to evict tenants who harbor crime (usually by their male friends) on RRHA property.  In this respect, RRHA states its preference to subsidize people who are fostering crime in preference to the honest people on their waiting list.

I think the Commissioners should be directed to work that is better suited for their talents and that they should be replaced with Commissioners who will take control of their staff, their money, and their property.

 

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Last updated 05/27/14
Please send questions or comments to John Butcher