RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Over the last few weeks, the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority more than doubled the number of eviction lawsuits it typically sends to residents, according to the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society.
This comes as Richmond ranks in the top ten cities for eviction rates in the United States.
RRHA normally files slightly over a 100 unlawful detainers a month against residents who haven’t paid some portion of their rent or utilities, the first step in eviction proceedings.
In the last five weeks, RRHA will serve 266 notices, according to documents obtained by CVLAS:
- Mosby Court- 62 cases
- Creighton Court- 52 cases
- Whitcomb Court- 35 cases
- Fairfield Court- 31 cases
- Gilpin Court- 25 cases (by end of November)
- Hillside Court- 61 cases (by end of November)
Last month, 180 tenants of RRHA’s “big 6” public housing developments, like Creighton Court, were pulled in front of a judge over sums of money as little as $50.
Single mom Tyease Williams received a notice of late rent and lease termination, over for $58 dollars. Williams said she and other tenants are scared.
“Some of us have nowhere to go, not much money, and they’re trying to put people out. It’s getting cold outside. It’s near the holidays, and it’s heartless,” she said.
Public housing advocates helping many of these people prevent eviction say they’re getting spread thin. Eighty-six more cases are still due in court before November is over.
"They’re very stressed and very frustrated,” said Omari Al-Qadaffi of residents seeking guidance, a housing organizer with the Legal Aid Justice Center.
Al-Qadaffi has helped hundreds of residents over his career facing housing issues. Housing advocates also point to a growing number of vacant apartments in RRHA. Current documents show about 171 vacant apartments in the courts, including 91 in Creighton Court, alone.
Some believe RRHA and the city may be making way for new development.
"I feel that they're doing it because they want to make more money off this land than they are able to with us sitting here," said Williams.
RRHA CEO Damon Duncan said the uptick in eviction proceedings is because RRHA now has more staff members. He also said the number of notices sent out monthly varies, and that only a fraction will actually result in eviction.
RRHA has also since partnered with the city's Eviction Diversion Program to help residents with rental assistance. Those facing eviction will be retroactively brought into the program, according to city officials.
Duncan also maintains that taking residents to court over rent has nothing to do with redevelopment, which has yet to be planned out.
But not everyone is convinced.
"The community largely feels that (the unlawful detainers) have everything to do with the redevelopment,” said Al-Qadaffi.
In a Facebook post after NBC12’s initial stories on the issue, RRHA said they were committed to “ceasing the eviction process.”
However, housing attorneys went to Creighton Court to work with residents, were asked to leave a meeting at the complex during a meeting with Eviction Diversion Program staff members. Duncan says representatives from the Eviction Diversion Program asked them to leave since they didn’t already represent the tenants, and sensitive information was being shared.
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