Richmond Regional Housing Framework



In 2015, PHA worked with Virginia Tech’s Center for Housing Research to produce a study that assessed the Richmond region’s housing needs. As part of the Framework, Virginia Tech conducted a five year update to the 2015 report, providing a thorough outline of our region’s housing challenges and changing demographics. These findings cover both the rental and homeownership market while also examining housing needs by race, age, and income. As a result, the Framework provides a detailed analysis of where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.

Housing Quality

Your home and your health are directly related. A quality home that is safe, secure, and affordable is nearly always a necessary condition for a quality life. On the other hand, a poor-quality home can severely impact physical, mental, and financial health.

Poor housing quality can result in lead exposure, mold and asthma from deteriorating materials, and insect or rodent infestations, just to name a few health dangers. The threat of facing these exposures and the uncertain costs and expenses can be a mental health strain. Poor housing quality can also result in staggering utility costs as poor insulation, leaky windows or damaged roofs require home heating and cooling systems to work overtime.

The Richmond region faces some unique housing quality challenges. Thousands of public housing units have deteriorated over seven decades due to declining federal funding. Additionally, over 10,000 of our neighbors live in mobile home parks, many of which have dangerous housing and crumbling infrastructure. And a good portion of our inner-ring suburban homes will be a century old in the next few decades, requiring repairs, modernization and replacement.

“It was normal to put a bucket down if the roof leaked...pipes froze all day long. Bugs and fleas were acceptable and it was a reality.”

—Resident of Hanover County

Where We’ve Been

Thousands of our dedicated affordable homes are reaching the end of their functional lifespan.

Beginning in the 1940s and continuing over the next 20 years, the federal government supported the construction of public housing communities in the City of Richmond. Today, the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority is responsible for more than 4,000 public housing units that are, on average, nearly 60 years old.

More than 5,000 additional apartments across the region were built using the Project-Based Section 8 rental assistance program and are, on average, 40 years old. Declining federal resources for these and public housing communities have left many homes with substandard climate control, plumbing and appliances, as well as other components necessary for quality housing.

Mobile home parks became commonplace in the Richmond region by the 1980s.

“Trailer homes” began to proliferate in the 1950s, as Americans found an increasing desire to travel the country. Roadside villages to accommodate these travelers soon transformed into communities for “mobile homes” by the 1970s. Despite the name, these homes soon became anything but mobile. Quality and efficiency standards for factory-built homes did not appear until 1979. By then, thousands of poorly built mobile homes were delivered to parks throughout Richmond as permanent housing, primarily along Route 1. By the 1980s, localities began to seriously restrict the development and expansion of these mobile home parks, but many still exist.

Our first suburban homes were built well, but are beginning to need attention.

Prevelance of Homes Built between 1940 and 1979

Homes in our region’s inner-ring suburbs—like Lakeside and Highland Springs—are desirable due to their size and proximity to the City. They were generally high-quality construction but built before many amenities like central air and well-insulated windows became commonplace. Rising energy costs can make these older homes more expensive than they should be.

Where We Are

Vast investments are needed to improve and preserve our dedicated affordable housing stock.

Thousands of our neighbors depend on public housing and other dedicated affordable apartments for housing security. Unfortunately, the age and condition of these units can sometimes make that impossible.

Over half of the region’s mobile home parks have a significant number of old, unregulated units.

Mobile homes built before the federal government began to require safety and efficiency standards are common in manufactured home communities throughout Richmond. These homes are some of our region’s worst housing stock; in many cases, they are literally falling apart. In some communities, site infrastructure and utilities are failing due to age and inadequate maintenance.

High utility costs in low-quality homes reduces housing security for both owners and renters alike.

Electricity Burden in Virginia, ZIP Code by ZIP Code

Even when housing costs are affordable, high electric and gas bills due to poor housing conditions can lead to energy cost burdens. During very hot or cold periods, some families are forced to decide between comfort and other life necessities, like food and transportation. Because older, less-efficient homes are generally more affordable, energy burdens disparately impact low-income households.

Nonprofit housing organizations continue to make a significant, positive impact through home rehabilitation programs, but the need remains large.

Organizations like Rebuilding Together and project:HOMES provide much-needed repair and rehab services to both low-income homeowners and renters. But between these two organizations, and others, only 300-350 families are served by these efforts annually.

Where We’re Going

An increasing senior population will need their homes upgraded and retrofitted to age-in-place.

Projected Change in Households by Age Group: 2010-2040

There will be five new senior households formed in the region every day for the next twenty years. While some well-off retirees will be able to afford new housing better suited to their long-term needs, many seniors will require serious improvements to their current homes in order to affordably and safely age in place.

Advances in energy efficiency technology may make housing quality interventions less expensive and easier to deploy

High quality, sustainable building materials are no longer only for luxury housing. Today, rehab specialists can improve indoor air quality and reduce energy expenses for much lower costs than previously possible. The region’s nonprofit housing providers remain on the cutting edge; they could make significant impacts with additional resources.

Industry innovations allow factory-built, manufactured homes to be highly durable, efficient, and affordable.

New, high-quality manufactured homes are a potential solution for replacing old mobile homes in parks and elsewhere. Under the right circumstances, these homes provide owners with ample housing security and wealth-building opportunities.

Policy Implications

Localities must decide how best to direct resources to the creation of new housing, versus preservation of existing stock. Neither extreme is ideal; therefore, localities need to make informed decisions about their housing resource allocation to have the greatest impact.

Meaningful housing quality improvements range from simple upgrades to major community interventions. For some households, a simple wheelchair ramp or roof repair makes a tremendous difference. But in other cases, the root problem requires more effort; for example, infrastructure improvements and community revitalization in a mobile home park. Localities must address both quick and long-term solutions.

Social services and healthcare providers have vested interests in the quality of our region’s housing. Localities should explore better connections between their own agencies, such as code enforcement, social services, first responders, and their local health districts to better track needs and direct resources.

Click here to read solutions for improving the quality of our region’s housing.

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