RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - State and city leaders came together Monday to talk about a big issue plaguing Richmond: evictions.
Mayor Levar Stoney says Richmond is in the top five for highest eviction rates across the country. Of the top 10 cities, five are in Virginia.
Richmond ranks number two in the country. Stoney says one out of four people living in public housing faces eviction.
"My family was one that lived paycheck to paycheck. I never thought we would ever lose our home because of a missed paycheck, but it's a real threat to someone's life," Stoney said.
The meeting started with a bus ride around Gilpin Park, which is the largest public housing complex in Richmond.
"We have an 11.4 percent rate, which is really high. Higher than the average," Stoney said.
Everyone on board has one thing in mind: trying to figure out how to cut down the number of evictions in the city.
"Everyone should have the chance to rise, and we have got to make sure housing is affordable and available," said Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.
Fairfax is going across Virginia touring low-income housing and holding round-table discussions aimed at fighting the issue.
"If you don't have housing, you won't have access to a job or a quality education," Stoney said.
While on the bus, the group heard the alarming statistics.
"One in 10 residents citywide are evicted owing less than $350. That's a problem that I think we can fix," Stoney said.
After the tour, state and city officials were brainstorming ideas to help people stay in their homes. Many say Richmond simply isn't offering enough affordable housing for families.
"A few cities across the country have diversion programs that avoid and divert a resident from eviction," Stoney said.
Leaders are also looking at pre-eviction programs and building relationships with landlords. Most importantly, Stoney says legal help is needed.
"There's no way a tenant can afford to stand up against a landlord that can afford an attorney, while the tenant is living paycheck-to-paycheck," Stoney said.
Moving forward, leaders at the meeting say Virginia should look at what's called "no pay or stay" programs, where if someone faces eviction, they can pay the amount owed to stay in the property.
Fairfax is heading to Hampton Roads, where he will host similar discussions in Newport News and Chesapeake.
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