Richmond, VA

Virginia eviction filings surge by 86%, state introduces pilot program to assist those facing housing insecurity

Edy Zoo

RICHMOND, VA. - Many families in Virginia struggle to keep their homes as evictions rise due to the pandemic. In response, the Virginia Eviction Reduction Pilot Program has awarded nearly $3 million to groups assisting those facing housing insecurity, but this is not enough to meet the growing need. 

While proposed legislation seeks to provide protections for tenants, more long-term solutions, such as a statewide housing voucher program, are needed for Virginians to have stable, affordable housing.

Eviction filings in Virginia increased by 86% from the previous quarter, according to the R-V-A Virginia Eviction Lab's third-quarter report, with Charlottesville seeing some of the sharpest increases. This is no surprise, given that many of the renter protections provided during the pandemic were lifted at this time. 

The financial boost provided by grant funding from the Virginia Eviction Reduction Pilot Program is welcome news for those struggling with housing insecurity; however, it is not enough. According to Christie Marra, director of Housing Advocacy with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, many of these programs struggle to keep up with demand and require additional funding to serve their communities adequately.

The current legislative session of the General Assembly includes proposals to protect tenants' rights and keep Virginians in their homes. 

These include bills such as The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, which would increase grace periods for late rent payments and allow tenants who move into uninhabitable units to break their leases without penalty. 

While admirable goals will benefit countless people across the state if passed, they do not address one of the root causes of eviction: a lack of affordable housing options.

This is why Marra and other advocates have called on state legislators to establish a pilot program called The Virginia Housing Stability Fund (VHSF). This would provide 5,000 households with long-term financial assistance through a state-funded voucher program over four years - bridging an ever-increasing gap between available, affordable housing and federal vouchers for which many Virginians qualify but cannot receive due to limited funds. 

At the cost of $90 million - through admittedly a steep price tag - proponents argue that this would help prevent thousands from losing their homes over an extended period while also providing valuable data about how best these programs work in tandem with existing eviction prevention efforts.

The consequences of rising evictions continue to reverberate throughout our communities and our state economy – from increased homelessness, overcrowding, or "doubling up" – families living in shared dwellings while sharing expenses - all giving way ultimately fewer financial opportunities or security for families struggling under these conditions or other poverty-related issues like where children go when schools close or do not open in person yet again. 

While immediate relief is needed now via emergency grants and programs like VERP, long-term plans such as VHSF should be explored further so that all Virginians have access to stable, affordable housing regardless of circumstances beyond their control caused by economic recessions or pandemics alike.

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Edy Zoo is an author who writes about social subjects. He contributes to the ever-growing library of social critics. He approaches local social subjects and local news covering Auburn-Opelika and surrounding cities from an objective point of view. He also holds liberal views.

Auburn, AL

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