Category Archives: Laws & Public Policy


Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME) has filed a fair housing complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against The Towers Retirement Community in Richmond, Va. and its Roanoke-based parent company Retirement Unlimited, Inc. The Virginia nonprofit fair housing organization, represented by Washington D.C. law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC, claims The Towers’ policies on the use of motorized mobility devices constitute illegal housing discrimination against people with physical disabilities.

The Towers requires residents using motorized mobility devices to pay an additional $1,500 security deposit and obtain liability insurance. Another instance of illegal housing discrimination is the requirement that such residents obtain additional assessments of their disability from the complex’s staff. Finally, Towers residents who use motorized mobility devices are barred from using the property’s transportation services, despite the fact that a mandatory monthly transportation fee is factored into each resident’s total rent cost. Applicants and residents of The Towers who do not use powered mobility devices are not subject to these additional onerous requirements.

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on a person’s disability, including creating barriers to access or applying different terms and conditions to persons with disabilities.

According to HUD, disability complaints constituted the highest percentage of all fair housing complaints from 2007 to 2012 (44 percent in 2012). The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) reports that 19 percent of the non-institutionalized U.S. population has a disability.  Creating equal access to housing without discrimination for persons with disabilities is an important part of preserving independence.

HOME’s complaint was filed together with the complaint of a 71-year-old woman who utilizes a motorized scooter for all aspects of her daily life after losing her ability to walk from a condition known as severe peripheral neuropathy. The complaint alleges that the complainant’s use of a power scooter is a necessary factor in her freedom and independence, and the fines and restrictions imposed on her as a result of her limited mobility are illegal.

HOME receives more fair housing complaints from people with disabilities than any other protected class,” HOME’s Director of Fair Housing, Helen Hardiman, said. “Our work in this case demonstrates HOME’s commitment  to educating housing providers and consumers on their rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws.”

Any persons who believe that they were treated differently because of their mobility devices or other disability-related needs at The Towers Retirement Community or any other Retirement Unlimited property, or any individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination anywhere in Virginia should contact HOME at 804-354-0641.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on seven “protected classes”: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status (families with children under age 18). Fair housing laws in Virginia offer an additional protection for individuals aged 55 years or older.

A dream for all of us

Martin Luther King Jr. was born this week in 1929. He shared with all of us a dream of a world in which the color of your skin did not bar you from any of life’s opportunities. HOME carries on his legacy by tirelessly enforcing the Fair Housing Act and remaining dedicated to ensuring that everyone, no matter who they are, has full access to the opportunity to live in safe, decent and affordable housing.

We know that discrimination is often based on more than just skin color. We file fair housing complaints based on skin color, race, religion, disability, age, sex, national origin, and familial status. This protects a lot of people, but there are still groups who are not protected. In Virginia, it is legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and source of income. Luckily, three bills filed in this session of the General Assembly propose adding sexual orientation as a protected class under the Virginia Fair Housing Act. Another bill seeks to protect families from discrimination based on their source of income. And finally, there is a bill which will enable all married couples- regardless of their gender or where they were married- to be legal joint property owners. Where you live makes all the difference, we want all Virginians to feel safe and secure in their housing choices.

If you agree with us, contact your legislator and tell them you support the rights of all Virginians to safe, affordable and decent housing. The protection of these rights should not be contingent upon sexual orientation, gender identity, or source of income.

Ready, Set, Advocate!

Today is Housing Advocacy Day. Supporters of HOME’s mission are talking to members of the General Assembly about the bills we support and the changes we hope to see in this session. There have been almost 2,000 bills filed this session between the House and the Senate; these are the ones HOME is keeping an eye on. Click the bill number for the full text of the proposed bill. The bills in bold are the ones we strongly support.

House Bills:

HB 208- Amends the existing vested rights statute by clarifying that structures that meet certain conditions shall be considered nonconforming. Additional changes make clear that a requirement under existing law to bring certain structures into compliance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code shall not affect the nonconforming status of those structures.

HB 222- Requires the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to notify the local governing body of a locality in which a provider has proposed or applied for an initial license or to modify a license of the proposal or application, and to receive and consider comments submitted by the local governing body when making decisions regarding issuance of a license or modification.

HB 224- Changes the criteria for transferring certain tax-delinquent real property to localities through a special commissioner in the Cities of Norfolk, Richmond, Hopewell, Newport News, Petersburg, and Hampton by reducing the percentage of taxes and liens from exceeding 35 percent to 20 percent and of taxes alone from 15 percent to 10 percent, respectively, and including parcels with an assessed value of $100,000 or less.

HB 259- Proscribes an individual from alleging a real estate licensee has engaged in untrue, deceptive, or misleading advertising unless such licensee has been convicted doing so.

HB 273- Changes the applicability of the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act from the ownership of no more than 10 single-family residences to ownership of no more than two single-family residences and makes the application uniform across the state. The bill also authorizes a landlord to expedite the disposition of security deposits under certain circumstances. The bill repeals the requirement for a landlord to accrue interest on security deposits, effective January 1, 2015.

HB 295- Increases the total amount of tax credits granted for the Livable Home Tax Credit program in any fiscal year from $1 million to $2 million and increases the total amount of tax credits made available through the program allocated for purchase or construction of new residences from $500,000 to $1 million and the total amount allocated for retrofitting or renovation of existing residences from $500,000 to $1 million. The bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Disability Commission.

HB 296- Requires localities to take steps to align transportation infrastructure and facilities with affordable, accessible housing and community services when developing the transportation component of the comprehensive plan for the physical development of the territory. The bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Disability Commission.

HB 331- Establishes first-time home buyer savings accounts that are to be used for saving funds for the purchase of homes by first-time home buyers. Moneys in the account are required to be used solely for the down payment and closing costs for the purchase of a home by a first-time home buyer. The bill establishes an individual income tax subtraction for income earned on contributions to the account. However, if moneys are withdrawn from the account for purposes other than to pay eligible costs, any income previously subtracted would be subject to recapture by the Commonwealth and a five percent penalty would be imposed. There would be no recapture and addition to taxable income if the amounts withdrawn were (i) withdrawn because of the death or disability of the account beneficiary, (ii) a disbursement of assets pursuant to a filing for protection under federal bankruptcy laws, or (iii) transferred to another first-time home buyer savings account
The bill limits the amount of principal that can be contributed to any account to $50,000 and limits the total amount that can be retained in an account at any time to $150,000. Persons would be allowed to contribute only cash or marketable securities to a first-time home buyer savings account.

HB 418- Adds discrimination based on sexual orientation as an unlawful discriminatory housing practice. The bill defines “sexual orientation” as a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression. “Sexual orientation” does not include sexually deviant disorders (paraphilias) as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

HB 419- Broadens the class of individuals who may hold property as tenants by the entireties to include any married couple whose marriage is recognized under the laws of any state in the United States.

HB 524- Requires the Board of Housing and Community Development to revise the Uniform Statewide Building Code to require that at least 10 percent of all dwelling units, but in no case less than one dwelling unit, in any newly constructed multifamily residential building shall be affordable, accessible units designed and constructed in a manner that satisfies the criteria for Type A units, in accordance with ANSI A117.1. Currently, at least two percent of dwelling units, but in no case less than one dwelling unit, in any multifamily residential building must be Type A units. The bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Disability Commission.

HB 527- Provides that for purposes of zoning, a residential facility in which no more than eight individuals with mental illness, intellectual disability, or developmental disabilities reside, with one or more resident or nonresident staff persons, shall be considered residential occupancy by a single family. Currently, such facilities are required to have one or more resident counselors or other staff persons to qualify for this zoning designation.

HB 600- Extends to tenants with one or more minor children who live within 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines the right to continue to occupy their apartment or unit or at least one of equal size and overall quality under a lease agreement, even though their apartment or unit will be converted to a condominium. Under current law, the locality must enact an ordinance to afford these rights, and currently such rights are available to elderly or disabled tenants.

HB 792- Requires localities in Planning District 8 (Northern Virginia) to include provisions in their zoning ordinances that limit the number of residential units with 500 square feet or less of living space to no more than 100 residential units per 100,000 population in the locality. Zoning changes required to accommodate such units must be at a location in which the zoning prior to January 1, 2014, was at least 12 residential dwellings per acre.

HB 816- Adds lawful source of income to the list on the basis of which it is unlawful to discriminate in fair housing practices. The bill defines lawful source of income as any income used by a person to pay for the purchase or lease of a dwelling, including (i) public assistance, (ii) any manner of gross income, (iii) federal supplemental security income benefits, (iv) child support, and (v) any federal, state, or local housing assistance, regardless of whether the funds are paid directly to the person or to a landlord or other third party for the benefit of the person. The bill also authorizes the governing body of any county, city, or town to enact an ordinance in accordance with the provisions of the Virginia Fair Housing Law, provided such ordinance includes protections against discrimination that are at least as protective as those provided by the law.

Senate Bills

SB 58- Requires localities to take steps to align transportation infrastructure and facilities with affordable, accessible housing and community services when developing the transportation component of the comprehensive plan for the physical development of the territory. The bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Disability Commission.

SB 63- Requires the Board of Housing and Community Development to revise the Uniform Statewide Building Code to require that at least 10 percent of all dwelling units, but in no case less than one dwelling unit, in any newly constructed multifamily residential building shall be affordable, accessible units designed and constructed in a manner that satisfies the criteria for Type A units, in accordance with ANSI A117.1. Currently, at least two percent of dwelling units, but in no case less than one dwelling unit, in any multifamily residential building must be Type A units. The bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Disability Commission

SB 313- Provides that if any locality elects to enforce Part III of the Building Code, it shall also enforce the unsafe structures provisions for tenant complaints and enforce the elevator, escalator, or related conveyance inspections. The bill also provides that where a county provides enforcement of Parts I and II of the Building Code in a town, and elects to inspect and enforce Part III of the Building Code, the county is also required to inspect and enforce Part III of the Building Code in any such town situated in the county that has also adopted Part III, upon entering into a nonmonetary agreement with the town for such enforcement, unless the town elects to inspect and enforce Part III. The bill contains technical amendments.

SB 340- Allows a locality to require any party wishing to establish a certain type of residential facility for the aged, infirm, disabled, or those with mental illness to provide public notice and participate in a public hearing. The bill requires the operator of such a facility to install smoke detectors regardless of when the building was constructed and directs the Board of Housing and Community Development to adopt regulations establishing standards for requiring smoke detectors.

Keep checking in with us as we post updates on the progress of these bills. Remember, the decisions made in the General Assembly affect all of us as Virginians. Write your legislators and urge them to support the bills you care about.

For more information on the General Assembly.

Find your legislator and send them a message!

Lobbyist in a Box service allows you to track up to five bills at a time, for free!

Local government budgets and Smart Growth

For years, research has shown that smart growth development can reduce costs for localities and in some cases can even increase public revenue.  Over the last 10 to 15 years, research about smart growth development strategies has continued to develop.  However, one question in particular still remained: What impact does smart growth development strategies have on municipalities’ bottom lines?  An organization called Smart Growth America sought to answer that very question.

Smart Growth America published a report entitled Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development.[1]  This report examined 17 case studies of municipalities across the country.  Localities in this study included Afton, MN; Champaign, IL; Charlotte, NC; Fresno, CA and Phoenix, AZ just to name a few.  Specifically, the report compared municipal revenues in two types of development scenarios: smart growth and conventional suburban.  Smart growth development is characterized by buildings located closer to each other, neighborhoods that allow ample walking for residents, streets with better connections among destinations, a greater mix of home types and increased transportation options.  On the other hand, buildings farther away from each other, neighborhoods designed primarily for driving, street systems with longer distances between destinations and fewer public transportation options are characteristics of conventional suburban development.  The report by Smart Growth America focused on three financial aspects of these two strategies: the cost of upfront infrastructure, the cost of providing ongoing services, and the tax base created by additional development.

So, what did this comparison study show?  First, smart growth development costs about one-third less for upfront infrastructure than conventional suburban development.  Some type of infrastructure is of course required to support and supply any development.  Often, the most expensive forms of infrastructure in new developments include roadways, water lines and sewer lines.  The less expensive costs for upfront infrastructure in smart growth development scenarios can be attributed to the fact that smart growth development typically requires fewer infrastructures.  This means that upfront capital costs, maintenance costs, and presumably costs for eventual replacements are lowered.  Additionally, smart growth development scenarios often reuse existing infrastructure, which serves to further lower upfront capital costs.

Secondly, the comparison study showed that smart growth development saves municipalities an average of roughly 10 percent on ongoing delivery of services.  Examples of ongoing delivery of services include the cost of services provided by first responders in emergencies such as police, fire and ambulance.  The way a community is configured has a profound impact on delivery of public services.  Because smart growth development utilizes street systems with better connections among destinations, service vehicles may drive fewer miles, thus allowing a reduction in operating costs.  Further, research showed that the savings on services in rural areas were even higher.

Finally, the survey concluded that smart growth development produces 10 times more tax revenue per acre than conventional suburban development.  Tax revenue typically refers to property and sales taxes, as well as licensing fees and other small sources of revenue in some instances.  This finding is particularly significant because for most communities property taxes are an extremely important source of revenue.  In fact, a 2010 U.S. Census survey of local government budgets nationwide showed that 48 percent of revenue from municipalities’ own sources came from property taxes.[2]

The findings of Smart Growth America are significant for multiple reasons.  The primary reason is because it shows that smart growth strategies create significant revenue for local governments and significant savings for residents! These findings are particularly relevant to local governments given our anemic recovery. Areas that experienced or are experiencing a lot of sprawled “McMansions” development are burdened with high land use and development costs.  Localities across the country have seen that low-density developments fail to pay for their own infrastructure. Transportation costs for families have ballooned, in some cases to more than a quarter of their income. There is a significant correlation between lack of transportation and access to higher paying jobs.[3]  By making the decision to utilize smart growth development strategies, local governments may find that that their public balance sheets AND quality of life for residents can be improved for decades to come.

This is a guest post by Jasmine McKinney. Jasmine is currently a second year student at the University of Richmond School of Law.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Tech in 2012.  She is currently a legislative/public policy intern at HOME of Va through the Carrico Center for Pro Bono Service.

[1] Smart Growth America, Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development, available at

[2]  U.S. Census Bureau (2012, September), State and Local Government Finances Summary: 2010, available at

[3] Shaila Dewan, Is Suburban Sprawl on Its Way Back?, Sept. 14, 2013, available at

Open letter on housing to VA’s gubernatorial candidates

The Virginia Housing Coalition has released this open letter to the candidates running for Governor of Virginia. The election will take place on Tuesday November 5th.

Housing is a cornerstone for our families and our communities in Virginia. For 30 years, the Virginia Housing Coalition has advocated that every family and every individual in the Commonwealth should have an affordable and decent place to call home.  As we emerge from the worst housing recession in our nation’s history, there are many reasons to focus on the housing status of our citizens here in Virginia.

  • More than a million Virginia households are housing cost burdened – meaning, they pay more for housing than they can afford.
  • Over 100,000 families lost their homes to foreclosure and this epidemic is still affecting our people and our neighborhoods.  Many areas of the state still lag behind our stronger markets.
  • The homeownership rate in the state and the nation are continuing to decline. We need to make sure that rental housing is available to meet this growing demand,  but we also need to rebuild the opportunity for young families to buy a home and begin to build equity.  Homeownership has long been the principle way that lower and middle class households increase wealth.
  • The cost of rental housing has outpaced the growth of renter incomes over the past decade.  In 2013, it would take a wage of $20.72 per hour to afford Virginia’s  2BR Fair Market Rent ($1,078), but the average renter wage in Virginia is only $15.79.
  • Finally, while we have begun to make progress in reducing homelessness, this progress is threatened by cuts to federal rental assistance funding.

Good housing policy does more than just provide adequate shelter to Virginians.  Housing is an important element of our state’s economy.  Housing construction generates jobs and economic spinoff benefits the surrounding community. For example, the construction of 100 single family homes in Fairfax County supports 222 short term jobs and 20 long term jobs, bringing the total economic impact to over $16.5 million. Usually, housing leads us out of a recession.  That has not been the case with the Great Recession. Our homebuilding industry has been in a depression for the past five years and that needs to change in order for economic growth to accelerate in our state.

Housing is integrally connected to many of the important issues that you will face as Governor.  Housing density, location and development patterns fuel our transportation needs and expenditures.  Good, stable housing correlates with improved educational achievement in young children, as well as providing mental and physical health benefits, especially to our older citizens.

As Governor, we urge you to place a priority on the development of a detailed housing policy and plan in the first year of your term. We also ask you to commit to continue funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund – an effort that has already begun to yield benefits to families across the state. The first round of Housing Trust Fund projects will be getting underway by the end of the year and will serve a broad range of housing needs in the state, including veterans, persons with disabilities and individuals experiencing homelessness.

On behalf of our membership across the state, we look forward to working with you to expand and improve housing opportunities for all Virginians in the next four years.


Bob Newman, President

New Study: Housing discrimination subtle, but present

As any homebuyer or renter knows, purchasing a new place to live is a multi-step process. But a lesser known truth about this common practice was recently released in a study from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The HUD study findings confirm that you, as a consumer, can fall victim to racial housing discrimination at any point during the browsing and purchasing or renting of a new home, from the first phone call to the sale itself. HUD’s release from more than 8,000 fair housing tests conducted across the country indicates that although blatant discrimination in the advertising and sale of homes may be on the decline, more subtle forms persist with equal consequences to the housing consumer.

Searching For a Home

Before the first showing, homebuyers peruse the availability of homes in their preferred area. Throughout the country, testers found that when contacting agents about advertised residences for sale, black homebuyers learned about roughly 17.0 percent fewer housing availabilities than their white counterparts, and were “shown 17.7 percent fewer homes.”

The First Call: Scheduling an Appointment & Pre-Qualification Process

The 2013 HUD study showed significant disparities in the initial contact between buyer and REALTOR along racial lines, even when it came to sensing racial background over the phone.  According to HUD, black “renters whose race is readily identifiable based on name and speech are significantly more likely to be denied an appointment than minorities perceived to be white.” During an in-person visit, renters who are identifiably black “are shown fewer units than minorities who are perceived to be white”. Similarly, homebuyers who are identifiably black…“face higher discrimination during the in-person visit than those who are perceived to be white.”

Significant numbers of testers in certain metro areas (including the Richmond, VA region) were repeatedly denied appointments by housing providers because they had not yet been prequalified. The report cites a case where the black tester called and spoke with an agent who insisted that she must be prequalified in order to see homes. He refused to meet with her until she had talked to a lender. The white tester was not asked about prequalification over the phone, and made an appointment to meet with the agent.

For example, field testers in certain metropolitan areas were so consistently denied appointments based on lack of pre-qualifications that HUD had to grant testing organizations permission to use qualifying dollar amounts over the phone just to schedule a first meeting. These nine localities included

Albuquerque, N.M.;  Atlanta, Ga.; Chicago, Ill.; Dallas, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; Greensboro, N.C.; Miami, Fla.; Washington, D.C. and our own Richmond, Va.

The First Meeting & Showing the House

A significant racial divide was also found when testers first met with real estate agents and were shown houses. In terms of variety of neighborhoods shown, national trends indicate that more homes and apartments are communicated and shown to white homeseekers than to racial minorities. HUD reports that

“agents spend more time with white homeseekers than with equally qualified blacks” and that “in about two-thirds of in-person visits, one tester is shown more units than his or her partner, with whites significantly more likely to be favored than blacks.”

Even an agent’s description of a neighborhood can be tinged with discriminatory language. The report states that:

“whites hear more positive comments about white neighborhoods and more negative comments about minority neighborhoods than do blacks, potentially steering them away from mixed or minority neighborhoods.”


Minority home buyers sometimes experience other forms of discriminatory treatment as well, relating to housing costs and financing, housing quality, and the helpfulness of the sales agent. These differences are less consistent and smaller in magnitude than the differences in numbers of homes available and shown.

But one particularly potent finding from the 2013 study may be the most unsettling – these disturbing trends only amplify when particular cities and towns (localities) are put under the magnifying glass, particularly urban areas.

The unfortunate truth is that even after sale, discrimination can occur during a buyer or renter’s time at their residence, and on bases of a variety of different “protected classes” other than race. The study itself cites the limitation that:

“results reported here probably understate the total level of discrimination that occurs in the marketplace… (and) do not capture all the forms of discriminatory treatment that minority home seekers may experience.”

HUD even indicates that the extent of housing discrimination faced by “minority home seekers with lower incomes, less wealth, weaker English language fluency, or blemished credit” may extend to levels beyond those actually reported this year.

We need to do more. To stop these disparities, it is paramount that buyers, renters and housing industry professionals are educated in fair housing practices.

Enforcement is still a necessity, as HUD states:

“Prejudice has by no means disappeared….minorities still face significant barriers to [their] housing search, even when they are well-qualified as renters or home buyers.”

A strong method to enforce fair housing laws is to have local fair housing organizations increase their proactive testing  of the housing industry (the sales market more so than rentals). Another proactive step is to research what specific localities and neighborhoods are experiencing these discriminatory housing practices, in order to pinpoint areas where investigations could really make a difference. Reinvesting in neighborhoods to create equal access to services and encourage diversity is another long-term method to reduce these detrimental disparities facing minority home seekers, renters and owners. It is for these reasons that fair housing organizations like HOME fight for equal opportunity to housing for all, through fair housing policy change, education and enforcement.

Poverty has increased dramatically in RVA suburbs

As poverty increases, affordable housing, access to public transportation, and linkages between housing, transportation, and job centers become more important for RVA region.

The recent New York Times story about suburban poverty is getting a lot of attention.  The story notes the shifting growth of poverty from the urban core of New York to its suburban peripheries, but it’s based around Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, a book released today by Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube at the Brookings Institution.  Admittedly, I haven’t read the book yet (yet!), but this trend came up in some data I was looking at recently.  In Virginia, Richmond and its immediate counties – Chesterfield and Henrico – are good examples of this trend in action.

The shift of poverty growth from the city to the suburbs is a trend we can see pretty clearly in the numbers.  A look at data comparing poverty in the City of Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield and Henrico, shows trends that aren’t far off from those outlined in the Times article.

The City of Richmond gets attention throughout the region for its poverty rate, which was 26.4 according to 2011 estimates.  The city’s mayor, Dwight Jones, made the development of an antipoverty strategy one of the first priorities of his second term.  But the bulk of the region’s poverty growth – numbers of people rather than rates – is happening in the suburbs.

From 1989 to 2011, which is as far back as the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates go, the City of Richmond’s population in poverty has grown by about 14%, or about 6,200 people.  In terms of poverty rate, that’s a 3.4 point increase, from 23.0 to 26.4.  In the same time period, Henrico has seen its population below poverty grow by 163% (20,500 individuals), and Chesterfield by 181% (14,500 individuals).

Suburban poverty rates remain lower the city’s 26.4, but poverty growth in the counties has outpaced total population growth.  Point increases in the poverty rate of a suburban county – where the total population has been growing rapidly for decades – represent more people than point increases in the rate of the city – where the total population only recently reversed its shrinking numbers.  Henrico’s poverty rate increased 5.0 points between 1989 and 2011 (5.8 to 10.8).  Chesterfield’s increased 3.4 points (3.8 to 7.2).  As noted above, Richmond also had a 3.4 point increase over those 22 years.  But Chesterfield’s 3.4 point increase represents 14,500 individuals, more than double Richmond’s 3.4 point increase of 6,200 individuals.

The chart below shows pretty clearly just how significant those changes have been:


The growth of poverty in jurisdictions throughout the region is cause for concern, and the trend of more rapid suburban growth is important.  As the suburban population of individuals below poverty increases, Richmond’s share of the region’s poverty drops.  In 1989, the city’s share of poverty among the three jurisdictions was 68.5%.  Today, it’s 47.9% (see the chart below).  There are more people in poverty in the immediate suburbs of Richmond than there are in the city.

The shifting geography of poverty away from the region’s urban core has important implications for policy decisions at the local and regional levels.  While there is still need for the antipoverty resources and strategies traditionally concentrated in the city, the counties are facing a growing problem.  The more widely distributed suburban residential patterns may make addressing those needs more costly.


Urban poverty in the Richmond region isn’t shrinking, but that’s not for lack of attention or effort.  Suburban poverty in Richmond has surpassed urban poverty in total numbers, presenting new challenges to the counties.  As the population of suburban poor continues to expand, antipoverty resources and infrastructure – affordable housing, access to public transportation, and linkages between housing, transportation, and job centers – will only increase in importance across the region.


This is a guest post by Mike MacKenzie. Mike is a Housing Research Analyst at HOME. He joined the staff in January 2013 after spending 2012 helping HOME study how local governments identify and address fair housing needs.  The former journalist and radio producer is passionate about sharing information and analysis that promotes transparency, informed decision-making, and accountability.  Mike specializes in fair housing planning, the spatial impacts of local policy decisions, and the federal regulations that guide local and state governments.  He received his Master of Urban and Regional Planning at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011.

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