By Katja Timm
Building on a package of new laws to reduce evictions, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he has approved the creation of a program to help low-income tenants facing eviction.
The Eviction Diversion Pilot Program will begin in Richmond, Hampton, Petersburg and Danville in July 2020.
The program is the result of identical bills sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mamie Locke of Hampton and Republican Del. Christopher Collins of Frederick County. The General Assembly unanimously approved SB 1450 and HB 2655. Northam signed the bills Tuesday.
The pilot program is aimed at curbing evictions in Virginia as well as collecting data on the problem, according to a press release from Northam’s team.
“Virginia localities have some of the highest rates of evictions in the nation, yet there are clear gaps our ability to obtain tangible data and fully address this crisis in our commonwealth,” Northam said.
“My administration remains focused on increasing access to quality, affordable housing, and this pilot program will assist the state in developing stronger methods for preventing evictions and expanding important protections for all renters in Virginia.”
Christie Marra of the Virginia Poverty Law Center said the pilot program is essentially a payment plan for tenants who might occasionally have problems paying rent.
“This program is for tenants who are not chronically late on rent,” Marra said. “It diverts eligible tenants into a payment plan, and if they pay their debts off, their cases are dismissed.”
Marra said the Virginia Poverty Law Center and the Virginia Housing Commission were closely involved in pushing for legislation to reduce evictions in the commonwealth.
Last month, Northam signed several bills addressing eviction rates and affordable housing. The measures include:
HB 1898, which will give tenants more time to submit unpaid rent and fees prior to an eviction judgment.
HB 1922, which will reduce the number of legal actions a landlord may file in court against a tenant — and limit the amount of court fees that tenants would incur.
SB 1676, which will require landlords to provide tenants with a written lease agreed upon by both parties.
“Most people don’t know that it is actually not a law to have a written lease in Virginia,” Marra said. “This happens a lot, especially in rural areas in Virginia.”
Marra and other advocates for low-income Virginians are hopeful that the new laws will help struggling tenants.
“From Day One, we knew eviction was a problem,” Marra said. “These six bills that passed are a wonderful step forward for leveling the playing field.”
A recent study by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University found that of the six cities with the highest eviction rates in the U.S., four were in Virginia: Richmond, Hampton, Newport News and Norfolk.
“Increasing the quality, availability and affordability of housing in our commonwealth is critical to ensuring that all Virginians have an equal opportunity to lead healthy and productive lives,” Northam said in a press release.
“These measures establish important consumer protections, help to improve housing stability for vulnerable populations, and represent a fundamental step forward in addressing Virginia’s disproportionately high eviction rates.”
Must-See RVA! — Cokesbury Building
A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.
- 415 East Grace Street
- Built, 1921
- Architects, Carneal & Johnston
Once there was this trendy little bookstore in the heart of the downtown shopping district.
This building was built for the Methodist Publishing House and designed by Garnett & Johnston. Its design clearly is related to the Mosby Store at the corner of Jefferson and Broad Streets, by Starrett & Van Vleck.
That design was, in turn, related to McKim, Mead & White’s Gorham Building in New York, a modernized version of an Italianate palazzo with an arcade at the base of the building and a heavy projecting cornice at the roof.
This design was felt to be a particularly successful blending of traditional and modern features, most appropriate for a modern shop.
The Cokesbury Building is designed carefully and well detailed. The first floor arcade was glazed fully, but is now closed partially.
The interior vaulted ceilings have been removed, but the building is otherwise well preserved. The reason for the popularity of this building type is seen easily. It is simple, dignified and impressive. [ADR]
The Cokesbury Building, with the Cokesbury Bookstore on the first floor, was an outgrowth of the Methodist Episcopal Book Concern. Created in 1789, this organization was established to religious materials for the Methodist church. It would eventually expand to include books and religious supplies and rebranded as the Cokesbury Press in 1925. By 2012, there would be 57 Cokesbury Book Stores nationwide, one of which used to be on Grace Street.
But in that same year, Cokesbury announced the closure of their brick-and-mortar stores, and today they’re online only. The Grace Street location had long been abandoned by that point, having relocated to Tuckernuck Square shopping center in 1992. A loss, really. They were more than just religious books and often had unusual or hard to find titles, back in the days before Amazon.
Today, it’s the Cokesbury Building Apartments.
(Cokesbury Building is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [ADR] Architecture in Downtown Richmond. Robert Winthrop. 1982.
Must-See RVA! is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!
Suspects Sought in Credit Card Fraud
Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify the individuals in the attached photo, who are suspected of using a stolen credit to make fraudulent purchases last week.
On Monday, March 30, the victim was notified that their card had been used at the Farm Fresh located in the 2300 block of East Main Street. Surveillance footage shows two females buying food and cigarettes worth over $400 with the victim’s card. They were last seen leaving the store in a silver convertible with a black top. A photo of the vehicle is attached.
Detectives determined the card was also used at the McDonald’s located in the 1800 block of East Broad Street.
Anyone with information about the identity of these suspects is asked to call First Precinct Detective J. Mitchell at (804) 646-0569 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.
Billy Jack’s Shack Closing for Good
Unfortunately, I’m sure this won’t be the last time we’ll be writing about a restaurant not being able to re-open.
Billy Jack’s Shack the local spin-off of the Westend’s Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint at 5810 Grove Ave. will not survive the economic downturn of COVID-19. According to this Richmond BizSense.com article on the closure, Jack Brown’s is doing alright for now considering the situation.
Owners Jason Owenby, Mike Sabin, and Aaron Ludwig made the announcement on Billy Jack’s Shack Facebook.
It is with heavy hearts that we make the unfortunate announcement that Billy Jack’s RVA will be closing down permanently. While our time here was brief, the relationships and memories we’ve made are eternal. We appreciate everything that y’all have done for us, especially those of you in the Bone Club. These are difficult times for everyone involved and if you would like to support some of our staff who are now facing employment uncertainty, please feel free to donate at the link below. We can not properly express how much this decision pains us and how bad we are going to miss everyone. Please message with any further questions and stay tuned to our Instagram page for some trips down memory lane