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City and state leaders brainstorm solutions to high eviction rate in Richmond

Posted at 12:20 AM, Jul 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-17 00:20:25-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Touring Gilpin Court on Monday afternoon, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney brainstormed solutions to the housing crisis affecting thousands of low income families, especially those living in the city, where there were over 6,000 evictions in 2016 alone. That's roughly one in five households.

The Lt. Governor is touring the state holding round table discussions on the topic of affordable housing and diversion programs to help decrease eviction rates for the working poor.

"Richmond ranks as one of the highest cities in the country when it comes to evictions," Stoney said. "The fact that the Lt. Governor is giving us some interest is a bonus to the city's efforts."

At a round table discussion, held at the Peter Paul Development Center, Stoney and Fairfax were joined by other community leaders and housing advocates to discuss affordable housing. They say finding affordable rent or subsidized housing is a challenge for so many families living paycheck to paycheck.

One housing advocate pointed out that people working minimum wage jobs, have to work 90 hours a week in order to afford the average two-bedroom apartment. Statistics also show that in Virginia, over 80% of people making under $35,000 are paying more than 30% of their income on rent.

For those who fall behind in payments, the task of catching up is daunting.

Patsy Hathaway recently retired as an educator and hoped to find a part-time job to supplement her Social Security income, but an injury caused her to fall behind in rent.

"It's such a great anxiety trying to call somebody," Hathaway said. She says most emergency resources aren't available to people until they're already in the eviction process.

She now faces eviction from her two-bedroom apartment in Highland Springs.

"Before this happened, I was paying my rent on time and I was paying it early," Hathaway said. "But you can't give what you don't have."

While Hathaway says her landlord is working with her, she says others have nowhere to turn. They face mounting late fees and court costs and are having trouble navigating a rushed and humiliating eviction process.

Justice says he hopes the round table discussions will help generate new legislation and policies to help people stay in their homes.

"How do we make that process more understandable for families," Justice said. "How do we provide more resources, so people won't have to end up in front of a judge facing an eviction.