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Virginia Organizing renews call for rental inspection program in Waynesboro

Crystal Graham
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Virginia Organizing will hold a news conference Wednesday to address the calls for a rental inspection program and affordable housing initiatives in Waynesboro.

The news conference will be held at 6 p.m. outside of City Hall in advance of the Waynesboro City Council meeting. The meeting, normally held on Monday, was pushed back to Wednesday due to the holiday.

Members of the Waynesboro chapter of Virginia Organizing will speak about the group’s plan to continue to call for more accountability in Waynesboro.

“Members of the Waynesboro chapter of Virginia Organizing continue to work with renters who have difficulties getting needed repairs by landlords,” said Connie Wright-Zink. “Despite City Manager Mike Hamp once again trying to cut off further discussions about possible approaches to a rental inspection program in Waynesboro, we stand ready to explore ideas with City Council.”

Waynesboro City Manager Mike Hamp addressed the inspection program as part of his comments at the last meeting of Waynesboro City Council in September. He said that tenants with problems should be able to file a property maintenance complaint with the building and inspection department in the city. He also said that tenants may seek further action through the Virginia Landlord Tenants Act.

Hamp said he “would not recommend at this time undertaking the new program with current staffing levels.”

Hamp also said that a rental inspection program could lead to higher home purchase prices and rents.

“The housing market currently is such that I think any elected body and our staff ought to be careful about enacting programs that would adversely impact price,” Hamp said.

“After we heard Mike Hamp renounce his support for a RIP in Waynesboro, support that he gave us in early January of this year, we wonder how he can expect people living in this city to trust that he is on their side, that he cares about them?” said Nora Scott. “In his comments he said that renters with landlord issues can report them to the city. However, throughout our campaign we have presented stories and statistics that point to a discrepancy between how many people in Waynesboro are living in unsafe housing versus how many feel safe enough to file a complaint with the city.”

Waynesboro City Council members Terry Short and Kenneth Lee said the rental inspection program is a priority for Council. Short said he would like City Council to discuss the matter further at an upcoming retreat.

“You have some properties in the city that are long overdue for some care and attention,” Short said. “I am concerned about spot properties across the city that we allow conditions to deteriorate, which then undermine the neighboring valuations of properties and undermine the valuations of entire neighborhoods. And there are real consequences to that as well.”

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.