RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Tuesday, local civil rights group Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Communities (RISC) gathered virtually to ask city leaders to make specific commitments to affordable housing and gun violence in the city.
“We are asking you to make this a priority, waiting is how we got to where we are now with the second-highest eviction rate in the country. The best time to build affordable housing was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now,” RISC member Nancy Kunkel said.
The group invited city council members to support putting $10 million in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for fiscal year 2022, using money Richmond is poised to get from the Federal Cares Act.
Only three council members attended the meeting, with Mike Jones and Stephanie Lynch agreeing to support those measures, but Katherine Jordan declined to fully commit.
“I obviously see their importance and their importance to the vitality of our city, but I cannot in good conscience do something I don’t know we have the funding for,” Jordan said.
Kunkel pressed Jordan to make a more concrete decision, adding that CARES Act funding should be more than sufficient to cover the city’s housing needs as long as the council was fully in support of backing those measures.
“It seems clear that money from this source can be used either to supplement the appropriation of the trust fund from the budget or to go directly into the trust fund across one or more years,” Kunkel said.
“I came to this meeting because I wanted to hear from you,” Jordan said. " All I can say is that I will be taking all of this into consideration, and I will trust in my colleagues and I will continue to educate myself...If the point of this meeting was to get council members to commit, I’m sorry, but perhaps I’ve misunderstood the purpose of this meeting.”
RISC also asked the city councilors present to commit to using the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create units for those with lower incomes. Jones and Lynch voiced their commitment while Jordan said she still needs more time before she can make her decision.
During the second part of the meeting, the topic switched to gun violence. After hearing personal testimonies from residents affected by gun violence, RISC called on Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith to address the city’s gun violence by applying for state funding to analyze its causes, but Smith didn’t give a direct answer towards support.
“The state is going to send me the grant as soon as it’s available so that I’ll actually read it, and if fits, I will apply,” Smith said.
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