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Mayor Stoney, HUD officials seek solutions during tour of public housing properties

RICHMOND, Va. -- On Monday, several representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, including Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, toured Richmond's public housing complexes.

The tour comes just a few weeks after Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney met with Washington housing officials to ask for additional funding for the Richmond Housing and Redevelopment Authority (RHAA).

"Your mayor is very enthusiastic and really pushing to redevelop public housing in Richmond," said HUD spokesperson Jereon Brown.

But funding remains a huge issue.

Over the past six years, federal funding to the RRHA has decreased by five million dollars from $21 million in 2012 to $16 million this year.

An annual grant for major renovations to Richmond housing, which has an estimated $150 million in needed repairs, was just $6.8 million.

This past winter, nearly 300 units in the RRHA were without functioning furnaces during harsh weather conditions, prompting a housing crisis.

HUD officials say Richmond currently falls on the agency's radar as one of the cites in dire need of redevelopment. Most of the four thousand units in the city were built in the 40's, 50's and 60's. Despite recent upgrades and redevelopment, a majority of the housing complexes in the city are deteriorating as buildings are reaching their lifespan.

Brown says simply repairing buildings can be costly.

"We've tried it in a couple of places, where you've left the facade and you've modernized the inside, but it's a very expensive proposition," Brown said. "It's almost cheaper to rebuild in most cases."

HUD officials says that's where localities must think of innovative ways to improve housing, whether leveraging private investment into public housing or creating multi-family units, thereby keeping housing affordable but on the market.

Residents say they're optimistic over the meeting but say repairs have been promised before.

"They keep talking about everything being brand new, like everything is going to be changed," says one resident.

"I'll believe it, when I see it."

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