HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Henrico's troubled Essex Village housing complex got a new name and a new owner.
Ernst Valery, the owner of a Baltimore-based investment firm SAA/Ernst Valery Investments Corp., has purchased Essex Village for $42.5 , according to county officials. The sale was recorded October 31.
Officially, the complex will be owned by Maggie Lena Walker Apartments LLC of Maryland, a company spun off from SAA/EVI Development. Essex Village will be renamed the Maggie L. Walker Apartments after the Richmond woman who became the first woman in the nation to charter a bank.
Ernst Valery previously told CBS 6 report Melissa Hipolit that he planned to buy the Section 8 property and renovation the area. That renovation, he said, would transform the complex so that a three-bedroom apartment at the Section 8 complex would cost up to $1,445 a month in rent. A one bedroom would cost $1,055 a month in rent.
Numbers that are higher than what the U.S. Housing & Urban Development Department (HUD) calculated for fair market rent in Henrico in 2018.
While Henrico County leaders seemed to take a wait and see approach about the housing complex's fate, U.S. Congressman Donald McEachin was pleased with the sale.
"After months of my continued inquiries and pressure, I am pleased that P.K. Management has sold Essex Village, where, under their poor management, residents lived in unsafe and unsanitary conditions for far too long. Everyone deserves to live in a clean, sanitary, and safe home," Rep. McEachin (D - Henrico) said. "While collecting millions of taxpayer dollars, P.K. Management failed to meet its basic responsibilities – and that failure has hurt residents. P.K Management had two choices – clean up or get out. With new ownership, residents will finally have the opportunity to get the clean, livable and safe housing they deserve."
Last month, Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas said the proposed rent increases did not sit well with him since taxpayers already paid $5.4 million annually to subsidize the complex.
"So, in this case we have a new proposed owner that is going to increase rents even more than the rents that were proposed to be increased by the current owner who we've had many problems with," Vithoulkas said in an October interview.
Valery said the amount of rent residents would pay would not change, but the amount subsidized by taxpayers would increase by about 40 percent.
Previous issue at Essex Village
Congressman McEachin sent multiple letters to HUD Secretary Ben Carson this year asking him to stop doing business with GHC Housing and PK Management.
HUD paid PK Management company more than $150 million to subsidize the rent of residents at low-income housing complexes across the country in 2016. The Ohio-based company runs three Section 8 facilities in Henrico County including, Essex Village, Woodland Crossing and Hope Village.
The company receives more than $7 million a year from HUD to subsidize rent at its housing complexes in the Richmond-area, but multiple WTVR CBS 6 investigative reports have revealed multiple issues at the properties.
It was Vithoulkas who put the wheels into motion after a visit to Essex Village last summer.
He put Deputy County Manager Colonel Doug Middleton in charge of a task force aimed at improving the quality of life at the complex.
In November 2016, county building inspectors opened 140 code violation cases at Essex Village.
The fire and police departments found that they are roughly two times more likely to respond to calls for service there than anywhere else in the county.
In January, inspectors from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave Essex Village an "F" grade.
During the most recent inspection on August 10, HUD gave the complex a score of 74.17 out of 100, which is considered passing.
However, HUD noted the inspection results for individual apartment units are still "unacceptable" and "represent a serious risk to the health and safety of the tenants."
Essex Village received 22.12 points out of a possible 44.26 points for apartment units.
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