Elizabeth Hancock Greenfield column: For a brighter future in the Richmond region, we need to start with housing

Elizabeth Hancock Greenfield column: For a brighter future in the Richmond region, we need to start with housing.

January is filled with resolutions as we look forward to all the possibilities of a new year. Borrowing from this tradition, I’d like to propose a resolution for the Richmond region. As our region grows and matures, so does our need for a mix of stable and affordable housing options that enhance the characteristics that make Richmond unique.

My resolution is that we work together to meet the housing needs of all our neighbors and allow our region to capitalize on its immense potential.

Just imagine what the future could look like with a new housing framework. More jobs and economic growth. A greater choice of options. Revitalized communities. Stronger schools across the region.

Does this resolution strike you as too audacious? Perhaps you’ve heard something similar before.

What makes my resolution different in 2020 is that we already are moving in the right direction and now have a roadmap for success.

That roadmap is the Richmond Regional Housing Framework, which the Partnership for Housing Affordability unveiled last week. The culmination of more than 20 months of work with a broad spectrum of community members, this framework presents myriad solutions to address housing opportunities and challenges in Chesterfield County, Hanover County, Henrico County, the city of Richmond and the town of Ashland.

While many of us are fortunate enough to have access to a quality home we can afford, this reality is not true for a great number of our neighbors. In fact, if we really think about it, I bet we all know of at least one person — a friend, family member, co-worker, young adult, senior, neighbor — who has experienced difficulty finding or affording housing at some point in his or her life.

Importantly, the framework does not push one type of housing or conclude that a certain definition of what constitutes a home is preferable. Rather, we understand that the best solution is one that encourages a broad range of housing types and prices.

One of our region’s greatest strengths is our diverse set of residents and neighborhoods. As our region grows, so too will that diversity and the need to provide access to safe, healthy and affordable homes.

This framework also differs from previous plans because it takes a truly regional approach. We recognize that housing needs do not stop at city, county and town boundaries. Residents move across jurisdictional lines to go to work, to go home and to have fun.

Although some ideas might be more applicable in Hanover than Richmond, housing solutions require a regional approach because we are so interconnected. Fortunately, officials from the five jurisdictions covered by the framework have been actively involved in this process for almost two years. There is real momentum taking place.

The framework itself provides dozens of recommended solutions to meet six goals that include increasing the supply of affordable rental housing; supporting racially inclusive wealth creation by increasing homeownership opportunities; ensuring that seniors are safely and affordably housed; improving housing quality and safety; expanding housing stability to stop displacement; and expanding housing choices for all, especially moderate- and low-income households.

I encourage everyone in our region — residents, community leaders, elected officials, business executives, nonprofit leaders and others — to visit the online version of the framework at pharva.com. Learn more about the current housing situation and potential solutions in your area and how you can get involved.

Creating more housing options and providing greater access to quality, safe and affordable housing might seem like a major undertaking. There will be challenges, but they are not insurmountable. Working together, we can meet the needs of our neighbors throughout the region and we all have a part to play.

As with any initiative, we must learn from the past. That’s why we cannot ignore the role that past and current housing policies played in shaping what our communities look like today. We must ensure more equitable policies that will create a future where race and ethnicity are not barriers for finding or affording a home anywhere in our region. Recognizing and acting on the need for more equitable solutions to housing will be important steps to ensuring our success.

Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, Richmond and Ashland have all made meaningful strides in addressing housing needs in recent years. Yet, there is still much work to do. The Richmond Regional Housing Framework is a guide to a bright future for our region: a future filled with opportunity and enhanced quality of life for all our neighbors.

Source: Richmond.com