In 2020, when we began working on this campaign for a second time in our RISC history, our research showed there was a shortage of 25,000 units of affordable housing.
This past January, the Partnership for Affordable Housing put out a report that this shortage had grown to 39,000!
In short - we have a CRISIS in our city, when it comes to the lack of truly affordable housing.
And things are getting worse, FAST.
RISC succeeded in getting the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund (read more about housing trust funds here!) funded, back in 2015. Over $9 million was invested between 2015 and 2021, and 935 units of affordable housing were the result. The problem is that 935 is nowhere near enough, and - for the first 5 years of the program -only 16 of those units were for households making under 30% AMI. The result? An evictions crisis – catapulting Richmond to #2 on a national ranking of cities’ eviction rates (read more about our eviction rate here).
In August 2020, we decided that what we want is twofold -
1. A dedicated stream of funding for the Trust Fund, of at least $10 million annually
2. At least 1/3 of the funds going toward units for those households earning the least amount of money (30% AMI or less)
Where We Are
In January 2021, we got the city to pass an Ordinance creating a dedicated stream of funding for the Trust Fund. This was a great victory that took much hard work; the Ordinance had been stuck in the city's Finance & Economic Development Committee and would not have passed were it not for RISC consistently turning out large numbers of organized people.
The Ordinance was designed such that the allocation grows each year, so that it reaches an allocation of $10 million by 2026, and keeps growing beyond that.
We learned this past Fall that unfortunately, the city was not following its own Ordinance (read article covering their non-compliance here). We realized we would need to exercise the power we had been building. So, we -
- turned out with our people four times to the City Council meeting (twice with 150 members!)
- garnered the attention of the press (see our "In the News" page!)
- conducted a social media campaign (check out our RISC Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages)
And, of course, all of this was leading up to our Nehemiah Action. By March 28, pressure on the city was high. The day of our Action, Mayor Stoney called a press conference, declaring affordable housing a crisis - despite having put $0 in the Trust Fund in his proposed budget that had come out a few weeks prior.
That evening, 4 Councilmembers attended our Action (Robertson, Lynch, Addison, and Lambert), along with 1,172 RISC members. Councilmember Robertson committed to submit a budget amendment that would take $10 million yearly in bond revenue, and put it into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The other 3 Councilmembers present pledged their support.
Robertson followed through, and on May 8th, the budget passed with $10 million in it for the Trust Fund. Verbal commitments have been made that $10 million yearly in bond revenue will go into the Trust Fund, for the next 4 years.
This is good, and it is RISC's position that we still need some local, non-borrowed money going into the Trust Fund. Over the next year, we will -
- monitor the expenditure of the Trust Fund dollars; one item we'll pay special attention to is that 1/3 of the funds are spent on households earning 30% AMI and below!
- work with city officials to identify source(s) of revenue for the Trust Fund that are not borrowed, and work to foster the political will behind allocating those funds to this crisis
RECORDINGS OF KEY EVENTS IN OUR AFFORDABLE HOUSING CAMPAIGN
Our Zoom Mini-Action August 31, 2020, at which we secured commitments from Mayor Stoney, and Councilpersons Lynch, Robertson, and Addison to support our two goals (put forward for the first time that evening)
The Affordable Housing Roundtable we organized on February 17, 2021, aimed at providing information to our local leaders around how Affordable Housing Trust Funds can be used to create housing for households making 30% AMI and less.