Ten years after it proposed getting rid of its single-family houses, the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority is putting the first batch up for auction.
After a first plan was rejected, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development approved another to dispose of 66 unoccupied homes, auctioning 26 units to the highest bidder. Two are duplexes.
“We’re hoping that, in addition to developers, we’ll have community homeowners — people who will fix them up and stay there,” said Desi Wynter, senior project manager with the authority, at a 5th District meeting last week.
Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity and a second organization, Project: Homes, will renovate and sell another 38 homes in the Maymont and Randolph neighborhoods to Richmond residents who make 80 percent or less of the area’s median income. The nonprofits have 18 months to complete the renovations and sale.
The houses for auction are scattered throughout South Side and North Side, areas that would benefit from private investment, said City Council Member Parker Agelasto at the meeting. Those homes range from a 752-square-foot, two-bedroom house in Bellemeade assessed at $41,000 to a 1,920-square-foot four-bedroom in Highland Park valued at $114,000.
The agency hopes the auction will net between $700,000 and $1 million — money that will go back to developing more affordable housing, Wynter said.
The authority’s plan, dating back to 2007, was to sell its single-family homes to low-income, renting residents, and efforts to do so account for the long delay. “We did put out a hard effort to get the families to purchase these houses,” Wynter said. Ultimately, just six residents and another five low-income Richmond families bought houses. Many of the rest have sat boarded up for years.
At the district meeting, some residents expressed concern about developers and student renters. “Unfortunately, we can’t control the free bidding process,” Wynter said.
North Side resident Norman Elliott, who also attended the authority’s board of commissioners meeting last week, worried that too few people within the community knew about the auction or about the chance to work on the houses for whomever bought them.
“Nothing stops bullets better than jobs,” he said.
Homes are open for inspection throughout the day on Wednesday. The auction, run by Higgenbotham Auctioneers, begins at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 29, at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. After this round, the housing authority will work on another strategy to dispose of the remaining 44 single-family homes.