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RRHA residents in 117 units still having heating problems

Jeremy Lazarus | 1/11/2019, 6 a.m.
Keeping all public housing residents warm remains a constant struggle, the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority acknowledged Monday in an ...

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Orlando Artze

Keeping all public housing residents warm remains a constant struggle, the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority acknowledged Monday in an email to the Richmond Free Press.

Orlando Artze, RRHA interim chief executive officer, stated that residents in 117 units either have no heat or have inadequate heat as this week began. But he said the agency is committed to addressing the issue and has delivered electric space heaters to each unit as a temporary measure.

He reported that 38 apartments “are experiencing loss of heat due to boiler-related issues.” That number, he said, is down from 65 units last week. He said the agency is working on repairing or replacing problem boilers, many of which are old and outdated and due for replacement that RRHA has said it cannot afford.

In addition, Mr. Artze said residents in 79 apartments reported partial loss of heat this week “due to one or more radiators not working.” He said that number represents an increase of 26 units from last week when residents in 53 units reported partial heat.

“In all cases,” he continued, “RRHA’s first priority is to restore the apartment’s temperature to 68 degrees as mandated by Virginia law during the heating season,” and that includes providing space heaters.

Heating has become an annual winter issue for RRHA as the aging equipment breaks down. Last winter, RRHA dealt with partial or complete outages in 411 units, and an uproar over the slow pace of repairs led to the resignation of former CEO T.K. Somanath last January.

RRHA, which manages nearly 4,000 public housing units, sought to be more prepared this winter. The agency hired two contractors to augment its maintenance staff, inspected units before winter arrived and set aside more than $5 million for repairs and replacement of equipment.

Still, residents are finding that complaints can take days if not weeks to address as the breakdowns outpace RRHA’s efforts to step up the speed of repairs.

Residents experiencing heating problems are asked to call (804) 780-8700 to register the problem with RRHA officials.