RRHA celebrates Section 3 successes, advocates further complaints

Marlene Jones | 6/11/2013, 12:17 p.m.
A month after a group of local justice advocates filed complaints with the United States Department of Housing and Urban ...
Sherrell Thompson

— A month after a group of local citizen advocates filed complaints with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) for “non-compliance” with Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, the housing authority has rolled out its response.

RRHA, in a June 10 feature from its communications office, which handles public relations, highlighted how it is “building lives and communities through its strong Section 3 program.”

In the feature, the housing authority that serves the housing needs of almost 20,000, mostly low income Richmonders, highlights two residents’ success in reaching self sufficiency.

One of them, Sherrell Thompson, who lives in RRHA’s Fulton community, was hired by RRHA last fall after she had been out of work longer than anticipated. She was offered a full-time position as an office support specialist in RRHA’s executive office and said in the feature that she is now able to save towards her goal of homeownership.

RRHA noted that as part of its Strategic Plan, maximizing employment opportunities for RRHA community members -- especially during community revitalization efforts -- is one of RRHA’s guiding principles.

"As a HUD-funded agency, RRHA is committed to ensuring that individuals and families in need are given priority, to the greatest extent possible, when work needs to be done and positions need to be filled in and around RRHA communities," the housing authority noted.

Meanwhile, the local justice advocates —including the state NAACP — sent a letter to Senate Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs Committee members saying that federal efforts to direct employment and other economic opportunities generated by federal housing and community development programs to low and very low income persons have not been fully effective.

The advocates blame RRHA based on its responses on the Dove Street Revitalization and Creighton and Whitcomb Court Redevelopment projects.

“On Sept. 17, 2012, we met with Adrienne Goolsby, CEO of RRHA; Malinda Washington, procurement director; and Dionne Nelson majority owner of Laurel Street Residential, about their collective failure to comply with Section 3 concerning the Dove Street project,” noted the advocates. “The agency’s response given by Ms. Washington was that RRHA and Laurel Street had complied with Section 3 requirements. She offered not one shred of documentation.

“Ms. Goolsby assured us that this was not a Section 3 project inspite of our protests to the contrary. Those who are in positions of responsibility have failed the residents, business concerns and the citizens of the city of Richmond for 45 years concerning the implementation of the HUD Act of 1968."

This week, the advocates amplified a call for RRHA to respond to their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and provide information related to the Dove Street Revitalization development.

"RRHA is required by law to record this information," noted Kin Salim Khalfani, executive director of the state NAACP. "The only reason for failure to comply is that it has not been done."

RRHA, noted, seemingly in its defense, that as part of the Master Development Agreement for its Dove Street redevelopment effort, RRHA and Master Developer Laurel Street Residential set three major Section 3 and Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) goals to achieve throughout the redevelopment process.

To date, noted RRHA, all of those goals, which include ensuring that 30 percent of the redevelopment effort’s business contracts are with MWBEs, are being met and two of those goals are being exceeded.