By Daniel Berti
A flurry of bills addressing affordable housing and high eviction rates in Virginia cities moved forward in the 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 since the Eviction Lab, a research group at Princeton University, found that of the 10 cities with the highest eviction rates in the United States, five are in Virginia: Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake.
“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.
The Eviction Lab found that the problem of evictions 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-Richmond, requires landlords to provide a written rental agreement to tenants.
- HB 1681, introduced by Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, expands eligibility for the housing choice voucher tax credit to low-income communities in Hampton Roads.
- SB 1448, introduced by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, 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 about a week 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.
Richmond Chess Club Hosting Kid’s Chess this Saturday
A great chance to learn about or get better at chess.
The Richmond Chess Club meets throughout the city every week for games. Often at breweries and bars so naturally it’s usually adults. This weekend their mixing it up and hoping to attract a younger set.
Excited to announce our first kid’s club meetup!
We’ll be at the Richmond Public Library (101 East Franklin) on Saturday at 1:00-5:00.
It will be a workshop environment with some of our coaches helping out teaching basic principles and ideas. And of course there will be plenty of time for casual games between students.
Open for kids (and parents) of all ages and it’s completely free. Masks required. Let us know if you can make it! We plan to do this every other Saturday going forward.
Senate panel shoots down bill that would make mask and vaccine mandates illegal
Democrats in the Virginia Senate voted down GOP legislation Monday that would have classified mask mandates and vaccine requirements as illegal discrimination.
The measures, proposed by Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, drew unanimous support from Republicans on the Senate’s General Laws Committee.
“It’s time to give people the freedom to breathe and the freedom of choice,” Chase told the panel.
Witnesses who spoke in support of the legislation said they opposed masks for a variety of reasons. One mother told lawmakers that masks gave her child nightmares. One man said that masks gave him seizures. A third witness said masks made her dizzy.
“We are being discriminated against,” said Doris Knicks, who spoke to the panel remotely.
On vaccines, Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, a practicing OBGYN, called it “egregious and a complete violation of an individual’s right to privacy” for businesses like restaurants to require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We shouldn’t be using this as a litmus test for people to be able to get into stores,” she said.
Democrats on the panel noted vaccine requirements are not unique to COVID-19 and said businesses should have the authority to take steps to keep their employees safe.
Venture Richmond Offering Up 10k Broad Street Tenant Recruitment Grants
Venture Richmond was awarded a grant from the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development to help recruit ten new tenants to Broad Street in Downtown Richmond. Each new tenant will get a $10,000 grant for moving in and opening by May 15, 2022.
Venture Richmond was awarded a grant from the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development to help recruit ten new tenants to Broad Street in Downtown Richmond. Each new tenant will get a $10,000 grant for moving in and opening by May 15, 2022. Venture Richmond is partnering with the Metropolitan Business League (MBL) to help recruit existing small, women, and minority (SWaM) and immigrant-owned businesses to fill street-level vacancies in the area.
The new businesses will join many galleries, retailers, restaurants, and small businesses who already call Broad Street home, as well as businesses that attract thousands of out of town visitors annually like Quirk Hotel, Richmond Marriott, the Hilton Hotel, and the Convention Center. Gather, co-working space, has a location in the area. A popular neighborhood happening is RVA First Fridays Artwalk which is a monthly celebration of the arts and galleries along and around Broad St. This section of Broad Street is also a part of Richmond’s Arts District and adjacent to Jackson Ward, near the VCU Monroe Park Campus and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) to the west and City and State offices and VCU Health to the east.
THE CRITERIA FOR ELIGIBILITY INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Eligible once the business has moved into the space and opened for business by May 15, 2022.
- Verified 1-year minimum lease
- Lease street-level space on Broad Street between Belvidere and 5th streets
- New business to Downtown, not the relocation of an existing business in the General District/BID.
- Existing businesses in the General District, who want to open an additional location on Broad Street.
- Existing businesses located outside of the General District, who want to open another location/outpost on Broad Street.
- Types of qualifying businesses include retailers, restaurants, makers, entrepreneurs, startups, and other creative businesses.
- One $10,000 reimbursement grant per storefront, if a group of small businesses wanted to share space there would only be one grant available for the group.
- Only eligible once
- Availability based on first come first served
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR ASSISTANCE, CONTACT: