A Place to Live

A regional ‘framework’ outlines housing needs and suggests solutions

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Stable housing is a key to building a healthy and successful life, experts say — but the region has a long way to go before all of its residents have a safe and affordable place to call home.

In January, the nonprofit Partnership for Housing Affordability (PHA) unveiled a comprehensive Richmond Regional Housing Framework that outlines challenges facing renters and homebuyers in the city of Richmond and the counties of Hanover, Henrico and Chesterfield. The report was developed during a 20-month span with input from more than 1,900 area residents, local government representatives and housing experts, along with data from a variety of sources.

Rents have grown across the region at twice the rate that median household incomes increased in the last 11 years, the report states, while a yearly average of just 240 affordable housing units have been built since 2014. The region will need to produce over 1,500 affordable housing units every year for the next two decades to meet the anticipated need for low-income housing. (Of those, 750 would be for people earning between 50% and 80% of the area median income, while 800 would be for those who earn less than 50%. The median household income for the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area is $83,200.)

“It’s clear that income and housing are entwined; you need money to pay for your rent, you need money for a down payment on your mortgage,” Jovan Burton, the PHA’s director of implementation, said at the framework’s unveiling. “For many, rising housing costs have made that increasingly difficult.”

Those who have suitable housing still may struggle to make ends meet. In the city of Richmond, 45% of households are cost-burdened, the framework report says, meaning they spend more than 30% of their earnings on housing costs. Across the region, one in three households faces similar circumstances.

PHA developed 60 solutions to increase the supply of affordable rental housing, promote homeownership opportunities for low- to moderate-income residents, end community displacement and provide stable housing options for seniors.

PHA Executive Director Elizabeth Hancock Greenfield says the nonprofit has presented its findings to government leaders in hopes that they’ll allocate funds for housing programs and implement changes to land use and zoning policies. The organization is also working with other area nonprofits focused on housing to put those recommendations into action.

The effort is already bearing fruit. In his State of the City address on Jan. 28, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced his Affordable and Equitable Housing Strategy, which aims to tackle housing instability among vulnerable city residents.

“[The localities] have all been working at their own speed on different strategies,” Burton says.

Source: Richmond Magazine