Tax Credit, Rental Assistance Endorsed to Reduce Evictions

Five Virginia cities were included in a New York Times list of the 10 cities with the highest eviction rates in the nation

A coalition formed to reduce high eviction rates in Virginia is recommending a series of steps aimed at encouraging developers to build more affordable housing and helping tenants stay in their homes.

On Tuesday, the Campaign to Reduce Evictions released a list of draft recommendations, including creating a state low-income housing tax credit for developers of affordable housing and creating a state-funded rental assistance program.

The group was formed in April after The New York Times published a ranking of 10 cities with the highest eviction rates in the nation, including five Virginia cities. The newspaper published data collected by a team headed by Princeton University sociology professor Matthew Desmond.

Coalition members met over the summer to work on strategies to bring down eviction rates in Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake.

The group also wants to promote education programs focusing on tenant rights and to set up a help line staffed by attorneys who can offer legal advice to tenants facing eviction.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who has been working on the issue, spoke to members of the coalition during their meeting Tuesday. He said bringing down the state's high eviction rate is an important issue of economic security for Virginians.

Fairfax recounted challenges during his own upbringing in Washington, D.C., when his parents divorced and his mother and her four children moved in with his grandmother. He said his mother eventually saved enough money to buy a house across the street from his grandparents, where she raised her children. He said his mother put all four of her children through college and two through law school.

"I know very personally what it means to have the security of a stable home situation," he said.

Christie Marra, a staff attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said members of the coalition expect to finalize their recommendations by the end of the year.

"Everybody is so committed to this," she said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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