Richmond congregations target affordable housing

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email | facebook

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Are we pricing half of Richmonders out of a home in the city? A group of area congregations thinks so and is pushing the city to fund a program to encourage more affordable housing.

An estimated 250 people from 13 area congregations will rally tonight at Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Jackson Ward.

New construction from the ground up, old warehouses turned into homes. Everywhere you turn, in nearly every part of the city there's new home construction coming. But, according to the US Census, 25 percent of our citizens live below the poverty level.

"Building in projects in Shockoe Bottom, etc., are great but are they affordable? The stats show the level of affordability is a challenge," said Tyrone Nelson, the Reverend at Sixth Mount Zion.  Nelson is co-chair of the grass roots group RISC or Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities. He says 35 percent of city residents pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing -- and that's unacceptable.

According to the census, the median income in the city is just under $37,000.

"A lot of working class people cannot afford to live in our city. most of the development right now is for the upper income people," said pastor Charles Summers, who is a co-chair for RISC.

He said Richmond City Council created an affordable housing trust fund in 2008, but has yet to put any money in it. "700 communities across the United States have such a fund and have used it leverage five and six times the amount of money to provide a variety of housing within their communities. We'd like Richmond to do that," he said.

The group will hold a mass meeting in April to encourage city leaders to finally fund the trust.

"Renting or buying, for us we just want to make sure it's affordable," said Nelson.

The rally gets underway at 6:30 at 6th Mount Zion Baptist Church on West Duval Street.

The main meeting will be April 14 at Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Church Hill. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend, including most of the Richmond City Council.

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