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Richmond housing chief owns vacant, blighted property

ABOVE: 3416 East Clay Street (back) (this isn’t a code violation?)

The RTD reported yesterday that “Freed G. Etienne took office yesterday as the city’s first deputy chief administrative officer in charge of housing, land use and community development”. He is the “new housing boss to spearhead efforts in community development”. Here is the rub: Etienne is the owner of at least one property in the neighborhood that has been vacant and blighted for years. This is how you develop a community?

3416 East Clay Street (front)
3416 East Clay Street (front)

The city’s property report for 3416 East Clay Street shows that Etienne has been part-owner of the property since 1996. Judging by the condition of the house, the property has been vacant for at least a significant portion of that time.

It appears that the house has been very recently unboarded to undergo some sort of renovation and we applaud this, though we have 2 questions — 1) why did the house sit empty for so long?, and 2) does Etienne own any other blighted housing in the area?


John 06/07/2006 at 3:50 PM

This post was via a tip from a regular reader. Thanks 100%. (You can out yourself if you’d like // or not)

If I were a real reporter I would’ve contactd Etienne for a quote or explination. I couldn’t find contact info for Etienne, though, so I’ve contacted the Press Secretary to the Mayor via

Anonymous 06/07/2006 at 5:21 PM

If anyone’s swinging by the courts building in the near future, it is pretty easy to run a quick name search for Etienne in the property records on a computer in the clerk’s records room.

Anonymous 06/07/2006 at 5:26 PM

This is his only property in Richmond. I checked.

Anonymous 06/07/2006 at 8:26 PM

Give this guy the benefit of the doubt………maybe he forgot he had this piece of property. I’m glad the same people that did his background check don’t do the ones for the police department.

v 06/08/2006 at 9:12 AM

how typically Richmond and hypocritical…. the housing deputy whose job is to develop a vital and healthy community has been the owner of a blighted property for years. I’m not sure if we should be laughing or crying…. I live down the street from this house and it has been perpetually ill maintained- overgrown weeds, tons of cats living in the house and frequent squatters. Where has this guy been for 10 years??

Anonymous 06/08/2006 at 11:17 AM

…getting a PhD at VCU in, err.. urban policy…So, he would be Dr. “Demo by Neglect” to you and me…Anyway, he wrote his dissertation on the thriving metropolis of Roanoke. So, perhaps he forgot about old Richmond. Anyway, who ever said city leaders cannot be complete hypocrites and still be effective. Most effective leaders I have ever met all seem to possess the quality of hypocritical irony. But, then again, the inneffective ones do too…

Bill 06/08/2006 at 1:43 PM

Ouch. This was great investigative reporting. I am a little shocked there has been no response from City Hall? Maybe he didnt disclose this little skeleton on the application.

Anonymous 06/09/2006 at 6:08 PM

I recommend someone check to see where Freed was working when he bought the slum property. I believe he was working for the City at the time.

john 06/11/2006 at 1:49 PM

and real media notices, though they didn’t get any real explanation either…

amy 06/11/2006 at 3:23 PM

how dare they call CHPN “scrappy”?!?!!!

john 06/11/2006 at 3:30 PM

I thought that was a good thing, like kind of cute but prone to occasionally biting someone…

J 06/11/2006 at 11:47 PM

Scrappy is a compliment. In the news biz, scrappy is often used to describe small newspapers who aren’t afraid of taking on big subjects — or bigger newspapers.

amy 06/12/2006 at 8:54 AM

well, if you’re not offended, I won’t presume to be offended for you. In any case, I would guess more people read CHPN than the richmond magazine blog….

Bill 06/13/2006 at 5:07 PM

Dr. Etienne is new to this job. It couldnt have been an easy first week for him. That being said, I say we work with him to make Church Hill,Union Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods proud models of urban revitalization! I would welcome his comments from time to time on this site.

Anonymous 06/14/2006 at 11:42 AM

This would have to be a contestant for the WORST(first) WEEK ever 🙂

Me is the Ridor 06/22/2006 at 4:38 AM

Congratulations!!! Good job in doing this research!

Way to go!



Concerned citizen 08/15/2006 at 1:09 AM

Yeah, I met Etienne once. He may have a doctorate, but after talking with him , he struck me as a pretty dim bulb.

John m 09/28/2006 at 6:20 AM

City Housing Czar Fired

Richmond city’s housing czar is out of a job. Mike Etienne has reportedly been fired, less than four months after he was handpicked by Mayor Doug Wilder to oversee the improvement of Richmond neighborhood’s.

also in the RTD

ann 09/28/2006 at 10:50 AM

Wow! Full circle. Good reporting from start to finish, pun intended.

bob 09/28/2006 at 3:41 PM

Looks like he can’t rehab a house or a career.

Bob Stokes 09/29/2006 at 11:54 AM

Perhaps the title “Czar” was a bit regal in retrospect: heavy is the head that wears the crown and all. Although I should say that the last real Czar suffered a far worse fate. Why anyone would see coordinating anything in this city as a good career choice is beyond me. Could there be a more thankless job? Cat hearder might be a more proper title. So, the moral of the story is: Czarin’ aint easy! Especially when your own political irony quotient is off the charts.

James 01/02/2007 at 10:45 PM

Found out Etienne was bought out by the other owner, and work has begun to repair the house again

jesse 02/17/2007 at 10:15 PM

I heard at a funtion that Etienne was actually fired because he questioned the mayors unsafe tactics with the whole train underground saga, the house was a scape goat tactic of big politics, opportunity and all. If a job was in jeapordy, wouldn’t it make sense to hire a large company to renovate in weeks time. Granted, 10 years is a long time.


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