RICHMOND — A flurry of bills addressing affordable housing and high eviction rates in Virginia cities moved forward in the state’s House and Senate last week.

Three bills on those issues have passed both chambers and have been sent to Gov. Ralph Northam to be signed into law. Several other measures have passed one chamber and are awaiting a floor vote in the other.

Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for solutions to the affordable housing crisis in Virginia since RVA Eviction Lab found that of the 10 cities with the highest eviction rates in the United States, five are in Virginia.

“Every Virginian deserves a safe place to call home,” said Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Charles City. He is sponsoring HB 2229, which would allow localities to waive building fees for affordable housing developments.

“By supporting more affordable housing, we can address the devastating impacts of Virginia’s high eviction rates,” Bagby said.

Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake have the highest rates of eviction in the state, according to a recent report published by Eviction Lab, a problem that disproportionately impacts minority communities. Richmond has the second-highest eviction rate in the country.

“Housing eviction rates in our commonwealth are a disgrace,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton. “It is no secret that the laws and regulations around eviction in Virginia are intentionally vague and disproportionately target our most vulnerable communities.”

Of eight bills introduced in the House and Senate, three have passed both chambers:

  • HB 2054, introduced by Del. Betsy Carr, D-Chesterfield, which requires landlords to provide a written rental agreement to tenants;
  • HB 1681, introduced by Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, which expands eligibility for the housing choice voucher tax credit to low-income communities in Hampton Roads; and
  • SB 1448, introduced by Locke, which changes the terminology from writ of possession to writ of eviction for the writ executed by a sheriff to recover real property pursuant to an order of possession. The bill specifies that an order of possession remains effective for 180 days after being granted by the court and clarifies that any writ of eviction not executed within 30 days of its issuance shall be vacated as a matter of law.

Five other affordable housing bills are awaiting a floor vote in the House or Senate with just under two weeks left in the session. Virginia House Democrats said in a press release Wednesday that they are committed to implementing affordable housing reform and protecting vulnerable communities from evictions.

“The displacement of vulnerable communities is not the nationwide record we want to be setting in the commonwealth,” said Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond.

 

Daniel Berti reports for Capital News Service. The service provides content to Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets and is staffed by students of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University.