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 Stability & Displacement

Fortunately, the Richmond region is growing; but not everyone benefits from that growth. New demand for urban living puts pressure on the same neighborhoods that were targeted with redlining, so-called urban renewal, and subprime loans. The gentrification of Church Hill, Jackson Ward, and other historically Black communities does not appear to be slowing, and is in fact spreading.

Socioeconomic shifts in the City have a ripple effect in the surrounding counties. In the past decade, not only has poverty in our region grown, it has suburbanized. In Chesterfield and Henrico, where subsidized apartments are less common, many lower-income families find it challenging to find affordable housing.

When a housing market cannot satisfy the needs of a population, households with the fewest resources suffer the most. One very destructive symptom of this instability is an eviction, when a household faces literal displacement. Following a groundbreaking release of civil court data in 2018, Richmond was identified as one of the highest-evicting cities in the nation. Today, addressing housing instability remains a major challenge for the region.

“Will there be a decrease of black homeowners and renters in my community? I am concerned that people that look like me will not be able to live here.”

—Resident of City of Richmond

Where We’ve Been

Richmond has a long, unfortunate history of displacement in Black communities.

In the wake of Reconstruction and as a result of Jim Crow laws, Black Richmonders coalesced into several City neighborhoods. The largest of these—Jackson Ward—was a vibrant cultural and financial hub for African Americans throughout the East Coast. Beginning in the 1930s, and continuing for the next fifty years, local officials began using newly available federal housing and transportation funds to intentionally divide and destroy Jackson Ward and other Black neighborhoods in Richmond.

Whether for “slum clearance,” interstate highway construction, or urban renewal, White leaders effectively used large federal investments to tear down Black neighborhoods. By the end of the 1950s, over 4,700 homes were destroyed in Jackson Ward. They were replaced by the City’s first public housing development, Gilpin Court, with fewer than 800 units. Over the next 40 years, additional top-down displacement occurred in the Navy Hill, Randolph, Fulton, and Blackwell neighborhoods.

In the 2000s, subprime loans took a significant toll on communities of color.

Sales of Bank-Owned Homes from 2007 to 2019

Between 2004 and 2013, 7% of all home loans made to White buyers were subprime, compared to 40% for Black buyers. Due in large part to these toxic mortgages, there were more than 4,700 foreclosures in the City of Richmond between 2005 and 2014. Nearly half were in neighborhoods where the Black population was greater than 80%.

Poverty is moving to the suburbs.

Poverty Trends by Locality

In the City of Richmond, about one resident in four lives in poverty. That ratio is lower in the surrounding counties, but they are now areas where poverty rates are growing fastest. Between 2000 and 2014, the number of persons in poverty in Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico grew by 110%—far faster than in the City. This trend is likely to continue, as low-income households are pushed out of gentrifying neighborhoods, the suburban housing stock ages, and older homeowners in these counties struggle to live on fixed incomes.

Where We Are

Recent housing cost increases in some historically Black neighborhoods are fueling displacement.

There are 3,600 fewer Black homeowners in Richmond today than in 2000. In Jackson Ward and Church Hill, the number of Black homeowners decreased by roughly 30%, while the number of White homeowners increased by more than 150%.

Richmond has one of the highest known eviction rates in the country.

Recent research by the Princeton Eviction Lab, along with the [VCU-based RVA Eviction Lab], show that eviction notices—and actual evictions—are all-too-common occurrences for renters in the Richmond region. According to national data, the City’s 11% eviction rate is three to four times the average across the country. Landlord may initiate evictions for many reasons, but the most common cause is nonpayment of rent. Evictions are often considered a symptom of poverty, but they are better understood as a cause. For example, a highly cost-burdened family evicted for missing a month’s rent due to an emergency medical bill now must find housing that accepts applicants with prior evictions—significantly limiting their options.

Where We’re Going

A large demand for housing over the next decade—especially in urban neighborhoods—will continue to put pressure on sensitive communities.

Projected Cumulative Change in Households in Richmond: 2020-2040

Thousands of new residents are expected in the City of Richmond in the coming years. Many will look for homes that are relatively affordable and near amenities, which are often in neighborhoods that are gentrifying or adjacent to rapidly changing areas.

Without intervention, over 40% of all our dedicated affordable rental homes will fall out of compliance (affordability) in the next 15 years.

Low-income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) developments and some other forms of subsidized rental housing are not required to be permanently affordable. Based on program designs and other factors, compliance periods may last 30 or fewer years. Because a large number of our LIHTC units were placed into service during the 1980s and 1990s, the end of their compliance periods are looming.

Many LIHTC properties--both large and small--will reach the end of their affordability period within the next 10 years.

A few of these developments will reach their expiration within 5 years. As a result, some owners may elect to convert these units to market-rate, placing added pressures on low-income renters.

Policy Implications

Future redevelopment of affordable housing will need to minimize the potential for displacement. Assuming resource availability, a large amount of our public housing stock and other affordable rental homes will be redeveloped in the near future.

Demand for urban living will require localities, particularly the City of Richmond, to address gentrification. Rapid neighborhood changes in the suburbs may also increase housing insecurity for low-income households, especially seniors.

Poor housing stability places a significant strain on other public resources. Evictions and other forms of displacement require courts, social services, and other providers to Intervene. Proactively increasing stability may minimize unnecessary resource depletion.

Click here to read solutions for increasing housing stability.

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