Essex Village apartments called 'the worst of the worst' in Henrico

Essex Village apartments called 'the worst of the worst' in Henrico

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Conditions at Henrico's largest subsidized housing complex are so bad that county leaders are stepping in.

Raw sewage spilling into the streets, smoke alarms that do not work and loose railings where children can fall through. Those are some of the major problems happening at Essex Village in Henrico county. It's federal housing that is not being taken care of, and the county is now stepping in.

According to county records, in one year, 140 violations were filed against PK Management, which is in charge of Essex Village.

"Nobody should be living in these conditions," a single mother told NBC12.

She did not want to be identified because she feared speaking out would mean losing her home. She says there is mold and even the pests run wild.

"Don't nobody want to pay that if ya'll can't fix it! You got roaches and rats out here!"

This mother also said it takes days, sometimes weeks for maintenance to come and look at an issue. The fire department says even smoke alarms don't work.

"We find not only that complex to be unacceptable, it is the worst of the worst in Henrico County," says deputy county manager of public safety Colonel Douglas Middleton.

PK management is responsible for Essex Village and receives federal HUD funds to maintain the property. The county decided to play a bigger role, when they say management asked the federal government for a larger tax credit and to increase the rent.

Fairfield supervisor Frank Thornton wrote a letter to HUD about his concerns. It shows rent for a three-bedroom would have risen 39 percent to $1,425 a month. Because this is the county's largest subsidized housing project, tax payers would be paying for a portion of it.

"You could get a very nice apartment in the west end of Henrico county in the Short Pump area for the pretty much the same amount of money," says Middleton.

Now Middleton is overseeing a large project to not only do a maintenance overhaul, but also improve the quality of life. It's going to involve almost every department in the county.

"The management company that oversees Essex Village is not doing its job and not keeping it in good repair," says Middleton. "They are our citizens. We care about them. We have limitations to what we have the authority to do, but what we do have authority to enforce, we are going to enforce. And hopefully that will cause other things to get better as well."

Middleton says HUD actually gave the complex a passing grade when it came to inspections - until the county stepped in and took photos of the conditions. He says parts of the complex were unlivable, and he is especially concerned about the complex's youngest occupants.

"When we have 800 school-age kids, somebody has to be interested in their welfare," he said.

NBC12 reached out to PK management multiple times on Thursday but did not receive a call back.

On Thursday afternoon, county leaders met with members of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. County leaders says improving the relationship with HUD and having this open conversation will play a big part in turning things around at Essex Village.

Congressman Donald McEachin issued a statement regarding the living conditions at Essex Village:

No family deserves to live in conditions such as the one documented at Essex Village. All individuals – no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation – should be treated fairly and have safe and clean shelter. The property managers must address these unhealthy conditions immediately. The families who call this community home, should be able to rest easy in a safe environment after a long day at work and school, not worry about the living conditions.

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