How does Richmond move forward after high eviction rate

Fixing Virginia's high eviction rate is important. (Source: NBC12)
Fixing Virginia's high eviction rate is important. (Source: NBC12)
Updated: Oct. 8, 2018 at 6:08 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Months after a report ranking Richmond number two in the country for high eviction rates, many people are trying to figure out a solution.

“It’s more than just a Richmond problem, it’s a Virginia problem,” Martin Wegbreit said.

Wegbreit said 18, 000 eviction cases were filed in 2017, 11,000 of those will end up as a judgement of possession. Over 9,000 of those the court hands papers to the sheriff’s office for the tenant to be removed and 3,000 of those are executed.

The number here in Richmond doubles that of cities much larger than ours.

“It’s an 11.2 percent eviction rate which is about 2-3 times higher than the national rate,” Wegbreit said.

Five out of the top 10 cities in the country with high eviction rates for larger cities are in Virginia. Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake all make the list.

Petersburg and Hopewell make the list for mid-sized cities.

Martin Wegbreit, of Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, works with tenants affected, and breaks down some of the problems.

“What Virginia has that other states don’t have are eviction laws which are some of the least friendly, least favorable and least fair for tenants in the country,” Wegbreit said.

Another problem includes race.

“Race is more of a factor leading to high eviction rates than poverty is,” Wegbreit said.

African-Americans tend to face more evictions. Wegbreit doesn’t call it racism from landlords, but says there’s work to be done.

“I think white tenants have more access to wealth than black tenants do. Black people in the United States have been denied wealth building opportunities in the U.S. forever,” Wegbreit said.

Orlando Artze, with the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, says building relationships is a big step in curbing the eviction epidemic.

“We do not begin the eviction process until the second month,” Orlando Artze said.

The RRHA has diversion programs that allow residents time to repay, similar to what’s available in many other states.

“We also feel it’s important to try and make an effort to work with the family, connecting them to resources that are available,” Artze said.

Many say it will take awhile before any change will be seen, but the change is on the way.

“Most tenants do want to pay their rent and most landlords do want their tenants to stay,” Wegbreit said.

Moving forward, The Virginia Housing Commission is working with lawmakers to help change some of the laws making it harder for tenants.

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