RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The townhouse is just one of a few dozen identical units at the eastern edge of Richmond’s Oakwood neighborhood. But unlike many of the other aging units on this block, the two-story brick-and-vinyl home isn’t being snapped up by investors for renovation — it’s being turned into housing for homeless young adults.
Damon Harris is the founder and co-owner (alongside his wife, Tarah) of Teal House Company, a real estate company that focuses, in Harris’ words, on “directly addressing key barriers to housing stability, wealth equality and the negative effects of redlining and gentrification.”
The townhouse on East Richmond Road is at the intersection of many of those factors.
“It’s in a community where currently a lot of people are being displaced,” Harris said. “Even where our townhouse is, nearly every unit, the families got a 90-day notice to leave.”
Recent data from a city-wide survey of housing confirms those fears, showing that many residents of East End are at an imminent risk of displacement.
On this latest project, Teal House is working with Marsha and Marian’s Neighbors, a non-profit that currently provides housing to 20 young parents and LGBT young adults between the ages of 18 and 24.
Harris said that partnership was key because, although he used to be a social worker, there were some key supports his real estate company wasn’t able to provide.
“Especially the LGBTQ population, they have specific services and stuff that’s outside of my scope of being a real estate investor,” Harris said. “I just want everyone to be safe, protected and have a place where they can grow.”
Harris said it took a lot of work to get the townhouse fit to live in again.
“The property was really falling apart — everything from extreme roaches to fleas to dirt and grime,” Harris said. “The carpet was pretty much disintegrated, and that’s what the video was showing, we were trying to get the flooring up and place new flooring.”
Now, as they prepare to add the home to Marsha and Marian’s roster of housing resources, the non-profit and Teal House are holding an open house to show-case their efforts — and encourage others to take part.
“Richmonders can directly impact what our neighborhoods look like,” Harris said. He added that the renovation itself was an example of how these programs could transform lives, because many of the contractors — including the man in the video above — have struggled with housing insecurity themselves.
“They were homeless three, four months prior to this job,” Harris said. “We try to be really intentional about how we did this whole project, because we wanted this project to mean something to everyone involved.”
The open house will be held at 3530 East Richmond Road, Unit 16, at 11 a.m., October 28. Attendees will be able to speak about the project with Harris, the contractors who renovated the home and representatives of Marsha and Marian’s Neighbors.
If you are currently in need of emergency housing, please call the Richmond housing crisis line at 804-972 0813.