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Richmond activists challenge city council on affordable rental program

There are 474 low-end market rentals units in Richmond.
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Richmond News file photo

Housing and poverty activists are taking city council to task over the management of affordable housing in Richmond.

The Richmond Poverty Reduction Coalition will present city council with hundreds of postcards next week highlighting the need to scrutinize low-end market rental (LEMR) units, of which almost three-quarters are currently managed by private companies.

The group wants a registry and waitlist for all these units that are meant to be rented to low-income Richmond residents.

De Whalen, RPRC president, said LEMR is like a “black box,” and notes she’s been told by social service agencies that their clients can’t get into these units.

“We don’t know who they’re being rented to,” Whalen told the Richmond News.

There are 474 LEMR units in Richmond, built by private developers with housing agreements in place to ensure maximum rents and income thresholds.

Of these units, 345 are run by private management companies or the developers.

RPRC claims they’ve called the management companies of the LEMR units and some rents were quoted higher than what the city says their maximum rental rates are supposed to be.

"We need huge improvements to the LEMR program," RPRC said in a submission to city council. "The city is accountable for this program. We are again asking for a full review and a transparent process that includes a LEMR registry and waitlist."

City council approved housing agreements for all LEMR units during development.

For example, there are 41 LEMR units in Viewstar Lot A, in the Capstan area, and rents range from $811 for a studio apartment to $1,480 for a three-bedroom apartment. These particular units are dedicated for artists.

RPRC will be speaking to Richmond city council on Monday on the management of the LEMR program.

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