RICHMOND, Va. -- On Thursday, candidates for the Virginia House and Senate shared their ideas regarding eviction prevention, minimizing the effect of eviction on educational outcomes, and creating more affordable housing.
Statistics show Richmond has the second-highest eviction rate in the country at 11.44 percent. Which is three to four times the national average. Statistics also show court eviction affects about 40,000 people in Richmond who fall under the 17,981 eviction lawsuits filed annually in the city.
“This is in fact a racial issue, it is a gender issue, and it is an issue that is really harming our children and our communities," Del. Dawn Adams (D - House 68) said.
Some candidates suggested the city must first define what affordable housing means in Richmond.
“It is very different in Richmond as it is in Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover, so we’ve got to figure out a way to one, create more units set those targets to a specific locality and region so that they truly are affordable," Del. Jeff Bourne ( D - House 71) said.
The question of whether or not addition funding would be helpful was also addressed.
"Additional funding only signals for rent increases, so there needs to be programs that help people get out of these situations without just cutting checks," candidate Pete Wells (L - House 71) said.
Others in the community said they believed those in office and landlords needed to be better educated.
“There are people in public housing paying market rent that are making $80,000 a year," said a community member. "That’s a fail. When I have a senior citizen who can’t even get in and they have to choose between cat and dog food and the food pantry.”
“We have an opportunity to make sure that voices that have been previously been disenfranchised are heard in moving forward to making meaningful changes," candidate Ghazala Hashmi (D - Senate 10) said.
Back in January, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced Virginia's first of its kind Eviction Diverson Program during his 2019 State of the City Address.
Stoney said it will provide financial assistance to support eligible tenants while also providing in court mediation between landlords and tenants.