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Henrico declares balcony from which pregnant woman fell to be ‘unsafe’

HENRICO COUNTY, Va.  – After a pregnant woman fell through the balcony outside her Essex Village apartment, Henrico County Building Inspectors declared the structure “unsafe” and prohibited any use until the repairs have been completed. The violation was issued by Henrico County building inspector Rodney Kirkbride.

The tenant, seven months pregnant at the time, fell from a second-story balcony in the 200 block of Engleside Drive.

The complex had recently attempted to repair the balcony railing, but said that when the woman leaned up against it, it the balcony gave way.

The 30-year-old woman was said to be trying to fix her screen door when she leaned up against the balcony and fell.

A spokesperson from PK Management said, in part, in a statement, that permanent repairs were scheduled to be made the day the tenant fell through.

“The resident was instructed not to use the balcony. This morning, it was reported that the resident fell through the railing. The matter is being investigated by the County police and fire departments.”

The apartment complex has been investigated by local government and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which gave Essex Village an “F” grade on their inspection in January.

After the most recent incident, Congressman Donald McEachin sent a letter to the Secretary of HUD, Ben Carson, asking him for immediate answers.

“It is totally unacceptable for residents in a HUD-subsidized complex to endure unsafe and unhealthy living conditions. It is HUD’s responsibility to ensure all residents have an acceptable quality of life,” he wrote.

County leaders have questioned where the $5.4 million annually provided by HUD to subsidize rent has gone.

Greg Pearlman owns GHC Housing, and is based out of California; PK Management is a branch of the company.

Pearlman said he was making Essex Village his top priority, and that residents would see major changes in early May.

Perlman said the building needs a $19 million renovation and he wanted to do one using tax-exempt bonds and tax credits, but he said the county would not support the plan.

County leaders said they did not feel comfortable giving GHC Housing Partners massive tax credits when they had not appropriately handled the taxpayer dollars they were given by HUD.

Previous issues at Essex Village

Essex Village, a Section 8 housing complex next to Richmond International Raceway in Henrico’s East End, has been the subject of a months-long CBS 6 investigation.

Residents said the place has not been maintained by its owners.

“I would not be able to explain to my kids why other kids live in the conditions they live in, in this complex, and it’s not the fault of the kids,” said Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas, who, after a visit to Essex Village last summer, decided to take action.

“There is a wrong that has been committed here, and the wrong is individuals have made a lot of money, and they’ve not kept a complex to the specifications they were supposed to,” he added.

Vithoulkas put Deputy County Manager Colonel Doug Middleton in charge of a task force aimed at improving the quality of life at the complex.

“It’s not a place that anybody should exist and live in,” Middleton said.

In November, county building inspectors opened 140 code violation cases at Essex Village.

The fire and police departments found that they are roughly two times more likely to respond to calls for service there than anywhere else in the county.