Northam issues Executive Order to address housing problems & high eviction rates

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by Brandon Jarvis

“Half of the 10 large U.S. cities with the highest eviction rates are in Virginia”

 

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced today that he signed an Executive Order that establishes new state housing policy priorities designed to enhance the quality, availability, and affordability of housing in the Commonwealth. The Governor signed the executive order during the Virginia Housing Awards Luncheon at the 2018 Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference in Arlington County.

“Affordable, safe, and accessible housing options are key to ensuring all Virginians are able to lead healthy, productive lives,” said Governor Northam. “This Executive Order will work to prioritize and identify policy solutions that will address the shortage of quality, affordable housing, increase the supply of permanent supportive housing, and reduce eviction rates.”

The New York Times recently did a study on 2016 eviction rates in Richmond, finding that “one in five renter households in Richmond were threatened with eviction in 2016.” The NYT reported that most people didn’t go to court when they were facing eviction mostly because they just couldn’t afford to. “In Richmond, most of those evicted never made it to a courtroom. They didn’t appear because the process seemed inscrutable, or because they didn’t have lawyers to navigate it, or because they believed there is not much to say when you simply don’t have the money. The median amount owed was $686.”

This order intends to address eviction rates by having the Commonwealth evaluate potential pilot programs that provide eviction relief,counseling, and education services.

“This Executive Order supports creating vibrant communities throughout Virginia,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The Executive Order will not only address the housing needs of our citizens, but it will also encourage engagement of our various housing and community development partners including local governments, the business community, nonprofit organizations, and other interesting stakeholders.”

Northam says the EO will focus on developing housing policies and actions that increase the supply of permanent supportive housing, including programs to reduce homelessness and housing instability for vulnerable populations.

“Housing is health,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, M.D. “When individuals have stable, quality housing, they tend to have fewer long-term health problems and lead healthier, more productive lives. This Executive Order will help us focus attention on the overall goal of increasing the number of Virginians that have a permanent place to call home.”

“A lot of people don’t make enough money to really afford housing, and even though their housing is subsidized, when you’re on a minimum wage, there are choices every day that you have to make,” said Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority chief operating officer, Carol Jones-Gilbert to the RTD in June. “I’ve talked to residents where they’re having to make choices between rent, medication, food.”

The  Governor says that this policy will help address the shortage of quality affordable housing by coordinating economic development efforts with housing production, supporting housing production technology, and supporting regional and local pilot projects that increase the supply of affordable housing units. The effort will prioritize the development of affordable housing in close proximity to employment and educational opportunities.

The Commonwealth will evaluate potential pilot programs that provide eviction relief, and counseling, and education services.

Northam assigned the work to the “Secretary of Commerce and Trade and Secretary of Health and Human Resources, their agencies, and other agencies and offices as needed.”

 

The full text of Executive Order Twenty Five can be found here.

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