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Candidate Forum Focuses On Eviction Prevention, Reduction

Following an eviction, some families end up living in motels because they can't find a landlord willing to rent to them.
Following an eviction, some families end up living in motels because they can't find a landlord willing to rent to them. (Photo: Crixell Matthews)

The Campaign to Reduce Evictions is co-hosting a candidate forum on evictions Thursday evening at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

Christie Marra, an attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said the goal of the forum is to dive deep into the root causes of eviction and talk about what can be done to help prevent evictions in the first place before people are even taken to court.

“There were some very good measures put into place by the General Assembly in 2019 that went into effect in July, but all of these measures were what we could consider the low-hanging fruit,” Marra said. “They are measures that are available to help tenants who are already in the midst of eviction procedures.”

She recommends lawmakers fund a pilot eviction prevention program, providing money to people facing potential eviction in cities with high rates of eviction like Richmond. Current funding is so limited that most places that do offer up some form of rental assistance require that people already be taken to court to qualify for it.

“That has all sorts of additional consequences,” Marra said. “Once you have an eviction proceeding on your record, it becomes harder for you to find affordable, safe, decent housing in the future because of the way that landlords screen potential tenants.”

And finding affordable housing is already a problem, she says. Based on anecdotal data collected by Central Virginia Legal Aid interns two summers in a row, Marra said about 90% of tenants taken to court for an eviction proceeding are there because they weren’t able to pay their rent.

“We know that across the state of Virginia, there are as many as 50% of renters paying above 40% of their income for rent,” Marra said. “We have people in the Richmond area paying 50 and 60 percent of income for rent, not because they want to live beyond their means, but because they can’t find housing within their means. That leads to this problem.”

Delegates Delores McQuinn and Rosalyn Dance introduced budget amendments for the pilot during the 2019 legislative session, but it didn’t get approved.

The below House and Senate candidates will be participating in Thursday evening's forum:

Dawn Adams (68th District, Democrat)

Jeff Bourne (71st District, Democrat)

Pete Wells (71st District, Libertarian)

Delores McQuinn (70th District, Democrat)

Betsy Carr (69th District, Democrat)

Ghazala Hashmi (10th District, Democrat)