Renters speak out demanding a fix for Richmond’s housing crisis

Renters speak out demanding a fix for Richmond's housing crisis

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Housing advocates want to know what it will take to bring quality, affordable housing to the Richmond area and help make sure renters aren’t forced out. Richmond ranks number two in the country with the most evictions. Of the top 10 cities with high evictions, five of them are in the Commonwealth.

Renters say substandard housing and harsh renting practices are forcing people out of their homes. They’re speaking out, claiming, it's a ‘take it or leave it’ mentality that's causing bad blood between landlords and those trying to survive.

"No one deserves to live like that,” Shawn Stovall said.

Stovall was evicted from his apartment for late payment, he’s now living in motels.

"One week it’s $280. One week it’s $290. The next week it’s $320…I had a cat in my room. I went to put the key in, I opened the door and there comes a cat flying across my leg,” Stovall said.

The fight to find a new apartment gets tough.

"Every time I go to put in an application fee now, it’s $40 or $50, and the apartment people don’t even have the courtesy to even call you back sometime and let you know what’s going on with your application,” Stovall said.

"Sometimes you just get to a point when you’re tired, and I was tired,” Patricia Robinson said.

She said terrible living conditions forced her to get out of her lease, even though she had nowhere to go.

"One day my daughter goes in to take a shower and she gets in the tub and the tub is full of roaches…Soon as the food got on the stove, they are on the stove with the food in my cereal, in my sugar. It came to the point where I didn’t want to put food in the house because I don’t know if I’m going to turn around and eat roaches,” Robinson said.

Stories like these find housing advocates asking lawmakers to do something.

"Virginia laws are unfair, unfavorable and unfriendly to tenants,” said Marty Weigbreit of the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society.

Advocates have the following suggestions:

  • Raise the state’s $7.25 minimum wage so people can afford rent.
  • If they get behind, give renters four months to pay what’s past due and add interest to other arrears.
  • If someone has to be evicted, give them more time to vacate instead of kicking them out then and there.
  • Create a state funded rental assistance program to help those who get down on their luck.

It’s all to keep people in their homes and not on the street.

"With mushrooms and mold growing in the bathroom, it's not safe for us,” Robinson said.

"I'm crying and dying for help almost,” Stovall said.

Mayor Stoney said earlier this year that one in 10 renters are being evicted in Richmond when they owe less than $350 in rent. He called that a problem.

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