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Residents pushed out of downtown apartment wait as property owner addresses building issues

Residents pushed out of downtown apartment wait as property owner addresses building deficiencies
Posted at 12:03 AM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 11:37:07-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Three days after the Grace Place apartments in downtown Richmond were deemed unsafe and residents forced out of their homes in a matter of hours, city officials met with property management to address deficiencies.

However, a resident told CBS 6 his situation had not improved.

"They told us to pack stuff for the weekend. You know, I packed stuff for the weekend. That's all I packed," said resident, Nathaniel Kinnard. "Everything I own is in there."

The disabled veteran with three kids spoke with CBS 6 on the phone Monday. He said he and other residents had been placed in hotels by their property manager but said that his kids were running out of clothes, diapers, wipes, and food.

He added that his family of four were forced from their two-bedroom apartment Friday and were now sharing a small hotel room with one double bed, in less-than-ideal conditions, and little information about how long they’d be there.

"We're fitting here because we had no choice," said Kinnard. "This is the situation that was chosen for us, because I had my place. So now I'm being made to live here. I'm being made to live here when my rent is being paid someplace else."

The Richmond Fire Marshal Battalion Chief and Acting Commissioner of Buildings met with the property management of the Grace Place Apartment Monday morning, according to a Richmond Fire Department Spokesperson.

Property management outlined what they had done so far to bring the building into compliance, which included beginning work on the fire alarm panel and on the fire suppression systems.

The Richmond Fire Department said before tenants could move back into the building, those fire suppression system and fire alarm panel repairs needed to be completed, and the property management needed to fix the elevators, sanitize the building, and have a structural engineer specifically inspect the north wall of the stairwell and produce a report to ensure it is structurally sound.

"The Fire Marshal's Office has identified 18 code section violations with 32 independent deficiencies throughout the structure. In addition, there are five significant concerns, fire pumps, elevators, fire alarm panel, structural integrity, and sanitation," said Richmond Fire Department Spokesperson, Amy Vu.

Vu said the building had not been condemned but had been declared unsafe for occupancy, due to a multi-agency inspection Friday that came as a result of a complaint brought to the attention of the fire marshal on October 17.

She said property management was also in the process of gathering bids from an elevator contractor, sanitation company, and structural engineer. They planned to meet again later in the week with city of Richmond officials for a walkthrough and evaluation of their progress.

In the meantime, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Angela Fountain, said they had a total of four Grace Place families that were voucher holders. But as of Monday, RRHA couldn't assist them.

"Unfortunately, as our agency does not offer emergency housing services, that that's just not that's not within our purview," said Fountain.

She said the agency had to wait for confirmation from the city that the Grace Place Apartment building was condemned before they could step in.

"Once we receive confirmation that the building is condemned, we will expedite that process and reach out to them to let them know that they can come and pick up an additional voucher so that they can begin their housing search," said Fountain.

She said RRHA had already received emails from landlords who’ve indicated they have availability at their buildings for the displaced residents.

"There are landlords that are really lining up to, um, to be of assistance, you know, to these families," said Fountain.

For Kinnard and so many other residents, assistance couldn't come soon enough.

"I want help. I want a place to live," said Kinnard.

Kinnard started this GoFundMe to help with expenses.