HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Henrico leaders say it's now up to the new owners of Essex Village apartments to do what's right for its tenants.
New management is stepping in and plans to change the name from Essex Village to the Maggie Walker apartments, but when it comes to ensuring better living conditions, many county leaders feel their hands are tied.
State and county leaders met on Wednesday to discuss the future of Essex Village. County leaders say people who live there need affordable housing - not deplorable living conditions. Then there's the proposed rent hike, which taxpayers would pay for.
"It is, in the words of HUD, not the worst complex that they have to deal with," said Henrico Deputy Manager Col. Doug Middleton.
There were voices of frustrations during the meeting.
"Trash was piled up in heaps by dumpsters. Trash and debris was on the ground throughout the complex. Reports of overflowing sewage into apartments," Middleton said, pointing to photos taken at the time of inspections.
Now new owners plan to raise the rates. County leaders say it adds up to a 38 percent increase in rent.
"When we questioned HUD on this, the response was 'well, the residents aren't going to have to pay it. HUD is going to be paying it' and our response was 'no, HUD will not be paying it. The taxpayers will be paying it, because that's where the money is coming from,"" Middleton added.
Which leads to the question - will new management make living conditions better?
"I have sat in their living rooms and in our community rooms to talk about their future and how we will rights wrongs done in the past," new management said in a statement to NBC12.
The county says it wants to know what those plans consist of and whether they will lead to long-lasting improvements - especially since taxpayers would foot the bill.
"The rent in these apartments, with what's being proposed, is the equivalent of what you would see for a very nice apartment in a private community with a lot of amenities in the Short Pump area," Middleton added.
The county is awaiting a Freedom of Information Act request for an outline of the new owner's plans, as well as a response from HUD Secretary Ben Carson for a face-to-face meeting.
"If changes are not made somewhere, this problem will repeat itself," said County Manager John Vithoulkas.
"Please assist us in continuing the pressure," said Supervisor Thomas Branin.
Middleton would like to see the buildings here torn down one-by-one and replaced gradually to make sure residents have the most modern living conditions. Leaders also want owners to replace the sewage system - which the county would then maintain. But so far, no deal.
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