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

Modern Segregation: Residential Preferences? Or Something Else?

Many neighborhoods in America today still lack racial and ethnic diversity. In some of these communities, the differences between neighborhoods is so stark, it seems like they are segregated. In addition to the racial/ethnic differences, there often exist dramatic economic disparities. Some neighborhoods feel like completely different parts of the world.

Given how much progress America has made on race issues, some people assume that this type of segregation must exist because people choose to live separately, that segregation is a preference. But research tells a different story.

 racial preference chart

The reality is that even though African-Americans prefer highly integrated neighborhoods, they still end up living in segregated communities, regardless of income[1] or even after moving.[2] In one survey conducted in Long Island, New York, almost 70% of African-Americans surveyed stated they preferred an integrated community.[3] Studies indicate that if given the economic opportunities, African-American families formerly in public housing will move into more integrated areas and live there for years.[4]

Part of the reason behind US segregation comes from the fact that African-Americans still experience pervasive housing discrimination, including but not limited to predatory lending, racial steering, and discrimination based on credit[5]. Racial steering is when a lender or real estate agent specifically shows families housing in different neighborhoods based on their race or ethnicity.

Unfortunately, these patterns of segregation are affecting other ethnic minorities. Latino Americans are, by and large, also concentrated in minority neighborhoods. The most troubling pattern is that often these neighborhoods are suffering from disinvestment and lack important tools for economic growth such as quality public schools. Some may claim African-Americans and Latinos have a tendency to clump near family members, but studies show education and services are both higher priorities. There are opportunities for improving public education by reducing segregated housing patterns. Segregated communities are often not satisfied with the quality of their schools.[6] Other studies indicate how segregated public schools and universities reinforce the idea of racially segregated neighborhoods.[7]

What continues these patterns of residential segregation despite the desire of residents to live in diverse communities? Lack of knowledge about inclusive and diverse neighborhoods, in addition to aversion to integrated areas seems to fuel this residential segregation. There is evidence to suggest that the neighborhood preferences of Caucasian Americans play an important role in their neighborhoods’ racial composition.[8] There is also evidence to show that communities experience racial blind spots. African and Latino Americans are more likely to know about highly segregated and integrated communities but not as much about majority white neighborhoods; Caucasian Americans are not likely to know about integrated communities, even when integrated communities are predominantly white.[9]

As advocates for inclusive and economically vibrant communities, we need to close the ignorance gap regarding mixed income communities. Part of this means addressing misconceptions about affordable housing. Affordable housing can be a scary term, but it simply means having a wide range of housing options for all of the regions residents and work force. Improving the affordability of a community does not dramatically lower the property values of surrounding neighborhoods.

As a nation, we have come a long way in combating discrimination. Unfortunately, the journey is not over, housing discrimination still exists even though market demand tells us that people want to live in inclusive and diverse neighborhoods. A commitment to community integration requires us to address the persistent prejudice, ignorance and mistrust people hold about different racial and ethnic groups. Making this commitment is the first step towards creating the vibrant neighborhoods where we want to live.

[1] Maria Krysan & Reynolds Farley, The Residential Preferences of Blacks: Do They Explain

Persistent Segregation?, 80 SOC. FORCES, 937-80 (2002)

[2] Stefanie DeLuca & Peter Rosenblatt, Walking Away from “The Wire”: Residential Mobility and Opportunity in Baltimore (Johns Hopkins University, Working Paper, 2010).

[3] Housing and Neighborhood Preferences of African Americans on Long Island 2012 Survey Research Report.

[4] Stefanie DeLuca & Peter Rosenblatt, Walking Away from “The Wire”: Residential Mobility and Opportunity in Baltimore (Johns Hopkins University, Working Paper, 2010).

[5] Margery Turner & Stephen Ross, How Racial Discrimination Affects the Search for Housing, in THE GEOGRAPHY OF OPPORTUNITY at 81-100 (Xavier de Souza Briggs ed., 2005)

[6] Housing and Neighborhood Preferences of African Americans on Long Island 2012 Survey Research Report.

[7] Pat Rubio Goldsmith, Learning Apart, Living Apart: How the Racial and Ethnic Segregation of 8 Schools and Colleges Perpetuates Residential Segregation, 112 Tchrs. C. Rec. 1605-1606 (2010).

[8] Keith Ihlanfeldt & Benjamin Scafidi, Whites’ Neighborhood Racial Preferences and Neighborhood Racial Composition in the United States: Evidence from the Multi-City Study of Inequality, 19 HOUSING STUDIES 325, 325-359 (2004).

[9] Maria Krysan, Confronting Racial “Blind Spots” POVERTY &RACE (2008),

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.

Lending discrimination imperils national prosperity

Our future economic prosperity could depend on mortgage lending discrimination

America is becoming more and more diverse. Given how much middle class wealth depends on home ownership and home values, if we do not significantly reduce mortgage lending discrimination, then we are placing our future economic prosperity at risk.

Heather Mullins Crislip

Heather Crislip

HOME CEO Heather Crislip writes about mortgage lending discrimination in her recent op/ed:

Subprime lending to minority borrowers has abated within the past few years; in its place is a lack of credit and, in turn, opportunity in African-American, Hispanic and low-income neighborhoods. During the housing boom these households were often targeted by unfair lending practices through the distribution of inferior mortgage loan products to qualified borrowers. The Center for Responsible Lending found that African-American and Latino borrowers with good credit were given high interest rate loans three times as often during the housing boom.

According to the US Census, by the end of this decade no single racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority of children under 18. And in about three decades, no single group will constitute a majority of the country as a whole. But as we are growing more diverse, we are also growing more unequal. Both wealth and racial inequality have increased, in some cases dramatically.

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Housing & Transportation Key to Addressing Richmond Region Poverty

The Richmond Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission presented its Final Report and Recommendations to Mayor Dwight C. Jones and the City of Richmond. The report represents nearly two years of research, public input sessions, and committee work. The commission’s findings stress the need for a regional rapid transit transportation system and a comprehensive housing policy. Commission Co-Chair Ellen Robertson plans to have the report presented to City Council during their informal session tonight, January 28, 2013.

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Important Questions for Virginia’s New Transportation Plan

As the 2013 Virginia General Assembly comes close to passing a significant new transportation package, there are critical questions that must be answered if all Virginians will be paying more taxes for transportation.

Will new transportation developments improve access that low and moderate income Virginians have to areas of high employment growth? Over the past few decades, the spatial mismatch between job creation in the suburbs and low‐income workers in the inner city has become more severe. This imbalance between jobs and housing deprives citizens living in areas where housing is affordable from accessing employment opportunities in high job‐growth areas. New transportation developments must focus on increasing access low income Virginians have to areas of high employment growth. This means not only roads, but also options such as mass transit.

For example, only 53% of the region’s jobs are served by the Greater Richmond Transit Corporation. Very few bus routes even extend into the surrounding counties. Those that do are primarily express lanes serving people coming into the city for jobs, not people going out of the city for jobs. This data was published in a report by HOME in December 2012 entitled Where You Live Makes All The Difference:  An Opportunity Map of the Richmond Region.

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Many Richmond Area Residents are Isolated in Areas with Very Little Opportunity for Them to Succeed

Where you live directly influences your ability to access the opportunity cycle

By 2040 the population of the United States will be predominantly people of color. The evidence put forth in Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia’s new report Where You Live Makes All the Difference: An Opportunity Map of the Richmond Region suggests that if our economic development and housing policies continue to isolate and exploit this population, the future vitality of the region is in trouble.

The Richmond region has long suffered from the repercussions of its past.  Beginning in the 1930s, federal housing policy promoted segregation through incentivizing the growth of white, middle class suburban areas while starving the inner city of credit.  The result has been intergenerational, concentrated poverty in some of the oldest neighborhoods of the region, while increasingly remote neighborhoods, available only to those with the necessary means, continue to blossom and flourish.  Only by understanding the mechanisms that have woven the fabric of opportunity throughout the Richmond region will we be able to move forward.

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