Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Hopewell getting new or upgraded housing
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Feb 11, 2013, 14:09

photo by Caitlin Davis Valerie McDougal, resident at Langston Park, said the renovations will change the community.

At a press conference on Friday morning, Hopewell’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority unveiled a plan that could provide new or upgraded housing to residents of Langston Park and Kippax Place in 2015.

Carrie Schmidt, Field Office Director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the day represented Hopewell’s implementation of President Barack Obama’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program, an award from HUD. This program, Schmidt said, “offers a long-term solution to preserve and enhance the country’s affordable housing stocks.”

RAD also allows HUD properties and private owners of HUD-assisted properties to convert their current assistance over to long-term Section 8 contracts. RAD is expected to rehabilitate over 12,000 units of affordable housing and provide more than $650 million in private capital to those housing authorities in need.

Schmidt went on to say that Hopewell will enter into 20-year contracts. She said this will allow HRHA to seek more funding for projects, such as the ones being completed at Langston Park and Kippax Place. Both projects are estimated at more than $9 million each.

The $9 million at Kippax Place will go towards replacing all major systems in the building as well as improvements to all 100 units. At Langston Park, the plan is to demolish the current housing units and replace them with modern apartments. The plan also includes an addition of 20 to 30 new units.

“So we’re preserving the housing that’s there, but we’re also improving the quality of life for the folks that do live there,” Schmidt said.

While the announcement was made at the start of 2013, funding for the projects will not come through until the end of the year. HRHA has to apply to VHDA’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program and will find out the results during the summer months. If the application is approved, funding will be secured in December with construction to follow in 2014 and completion in 2015.

“We hope that, we anticipate, up to 60,000 units across the nation to be preserved with RAD,” Schmidt said. “We hope it will open doors of opportunity not only to the residents here at Langston and at Kippax Place, but for all those residents that are to come.”

Jerryl Bennett, Director of Public Housing for the Richmond field office, said the day was one enveloped in history. He said the projects will improve the buildings, which are over 40 years old. Kippax was built in 1973 and Langston Park opened in 1962.

Bennett said when buildings age they become less energy efficient, often leading to higher utility bills for residents and even health problems. Bennett said it was through the strength of many that HRHA reached this point.

“It’s that team approach that says we need to do something different no matter what we have to do to get to the other side of these deplorable housing conditions,” Bennett said.

Steve Benham, Executive Director for Hopewell Redevelopment and Housing Authority, had a hard time hiding his happiness as he spoke on Friday at the press conference. He said this opportunity is going to bring much more to Hopewell than new units for residents. The upgrades, he said, would add jobs, contracts and supplies while increasing the tax base for the city.

“I look forward to the months and years ahead as we help to lay the foundation for a new way for developing affordable housing in the entire country,” Benham said.

The residents of Langston Park and Kippax Place also expressed their elation on Friday. Valerie McDougal, a tenant at Langston Park, spoke on behalf of the residents and could not say thank you enough to those who made the redevelopment possible. She said the renovations will change the lives of current and future residents.

“We think it will have an uplifting effect on our children and the way they see themselves,” McDougal said. “They will no longer feel they are a product of the projects.”

As McDougal continued to pass thanks to Benham and his team at HRHA, she noted that before Benham assumed his role, the residents were not asked for their input. “Nobody was there to listen,” she said, adding that this new chapter will change how the residents see themselves.

“We are not project tenants. That’s an old-school myth,” McDougal said. “We are housing tenants because of you all and we thank you for this.”

Michael Patrick, a resident at Kippax Place, was also on hand to thank those in attendance on Friday morning. He said the residents understand the economy is tough and they are thankful for the renovations.

“Now we have a major renovation coming up of approximately $9 million and we have thanks for anything that can be done,” Patrick said.

City officials – such as Councilor Jackie Shornak, Councilor Wayne Walton, Councilor Roosevelt Edwards and Director of Recreation and Parks Jo Turek – all gave their thanks and spoke on what the renovations would mean to Hopewell.

Vice-Mayor Jasmine Gore said she was excited about the upcoming projects, especially to hear McDougal and Patrick speak on the rehabilitation to the properties.

“I think the projects are a great opportunity for development within the city and growth,” Gore said.

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