Henrico sees opportunity when apartment complexes get new owners
Henrico County officials gathered today at Hope Village Apartments off Mountain Road to celebrate the most extensive renovations ever made to the 46-year-old complex.
Each of the 100 units received new floors, paint, appliances, cabinets, countertops, smoke detectors, lighting and bathroom fixtures. Some also got new heat pumps, water heaters and interior doors.
Fairstead Affordable, operating as Hope Preservation LP, bought the property in 2018 and invested more than $5 million in renovations as part of a $14 million tax-exempt financing package. The financing was approved by the Henrico Board of Supervisors based on the complex’s location and issued through the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
“This investment raises the quality of affordable housing and preserves affordable living in Henrico County for generations of families,” said Bobby Byrd, a vice president with Fairstead Affordable.
In welcoming an improved Hope Village during today’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Henrico officials said their experiences with the project validated the county’s new approach for seeking better living conditions at older apartment complexes. The efforts are part of a broader effort to address housing issues throughout Henrico.
Now, when prospective owners or developers seek public financing for complexes subsidized through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, they are asked to enter into agreements with Henrico that outline what improvements will be made.
Hope Village is the county’s first complex improved through a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, which detailed about three dozen commitments in its scope of construction. Similar agreements have since been approved for the Henrico Arms Apartments, St. Luke Apartments and Newbridge Village Apartments, where work is pending or underway.
“The MOU gives us the ability to work with developers or owners to enhance the overall scope of the development,” said Eric S. Leabough, director of the county’s Department of Community Revitalization.
Because the complexes are part of the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program, rents vary according to each resident’s income. As a result, the amounts that residents pay will not be affected by the recent improvements to the property.
Henrico is playing an active role at a critical time, officials said, because many of the county’s apartment communities are older and need reinvestment, and their ownership is changing.
That creates an opportunity for county officials to work with prospective owners, who may be based elsewhere and not fully aware of a property’s needs or challenges, Leabough said.
MOUs allow the county to highlight concerns and to request specific improvements, such as security enhancements and amenities for residents. The agreements also give the county a greater degree of oversight, by authorizing regular inspections and audits of records.
Henrico sees an MOU as a tool to formalize a partnership between the county and a complex’s owners and residents. “We want to see it as a win-win for all parties,” Leabough said.
Hope Village had significant structural issues, including sewage overflow, when New York-based Fairstead Affordable bought the property last year.
As part of the county’s support of a financing plan, Henrico was able to secure a commitment for renovations that would average at least $42,000 per unit and be completed within two years. The MOU for Hope Village will remain in effect for 15 years.
Henrico now has similar agreements in place for renovations to other apartment complexes.
Henrico Arms will receive $12.4 million in improvements, or about $53,000 for each of its 232 units. St. Luke will undergo $27.8 million in improvements, or about $56,000 for each of its 496 units. Newbridge Village is slated for $3.3 million in improvements, or about $22,000 for each of its 152 units.