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Richmond Task Force Begins Work To Tackle Eviction Epidemic

Eviction task force
Mayor Levar Stoney and members of the Eviction Task Force discussing possible ways to tackle Richmond's eviction crisis. (Photo: Yasmine Jumaa/VPM) 

The City of Richmond’s Eviction Task Force met for the first time on Monday, to kick-off its work alongside the city’s new Eviction Diversion Program. The group talked through possible solutions to address the growing epidemic.

Some of the things they went over are a report about Richmond’s response to evictions and its recommendations, including: 

  • Eviction prevention programs
  • Post-eviction assistance
  • Creating a one-stop location for all housing-related services
  • And providing educational programs to both residents and landlords

​​​​The Eviction Diversion Program stemmed from an in-depth report on the city’s high number of evictions. This task force formed last month following growing concerns about increased eviction cases of residents living in subsidized housing

Richmond NAACP’s Housing Chair Tracey Hardney Scott is on the task force. She said lowering the city’s eviction rate starts with educating both landlords and tenants — as early as the tenth grade. 

“They’re already preparing for the outside world, not all of them are going to go to college. Some may go to college, but you can even get evicted from dorm rooms,” Hardney Scott said. 

She added evictions are detrimental to peoples’ credits and stressed the need for an eviction forgiveness program that would clear the records of those who have fulfilled their debts.

“What that’s done is create an influx of slumlords,” Hardney Scott Said. “They don’t need to run credit reports, but they’re not providing quality housing — some of it inhabitable.”

Christie Marra is a family and housing law attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) and a member of the task force. In response to Hardney Scott, Marra says there’s a bill being introduced ahead of the upcoming General Assembly session that would allow the expungement of dismissed eviction cases. 

“As a public policy matter, we should be cleaning up the record when in fact the court found that the tenant wasn’t at fault,” Marra said. 

Marra says she’d like to see the city form an eviction prevention program that would provide emergency funding for residents without them having to go to court. This is something VPLC is advocating for statewide — that Marra said would be especially beneficial at the local level. 

“With Richmond having the second-highest eviction rates in the country, we think its really, really critical,” Marra said. 

Over the next couple of weeks, the task force will be split into smaller groups to tackle some of the city’s biggest disparities, like a lack of affordable housing; and serving the needs of its lowest-income residents — those making 30 percent or less of the area median income. 

Subject to change, the task force will meet again on Tuesday, January 14th at 4 p.m. in the large conference room on the 2nd floor of City Hall.