News

Fighting for Fair Housing Practices in Richmond, Virginia

/ Blog Post

By Hana Hausnerova, director of public programs at Equal Justice Works

Richmond, Virginia has the second highest eviction rate in the country and a history of segregation, redlining, and racial discrimination. Redlining is a discriminatory lending practice from the 1930s that scored mortgage security based on the demographics of neighborhood. The practice resulted in Black, immigrant, and minority neighborhoods being systematically denied mortgages, insurance, loans, and other financial services. To this day, these discriminatory practices directly contribute to the eviction rate in Richmond’s predominantly Black neighborhoods being ten times higher than the rate of eviction in Richmond’s neighboring predominantly white neighborhoods.

The 1968 Fair Housing Act, a national law that prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender (and as amended) disability and family status, was adopted to stop the discriminatory practices. However, the inequities created by earlier practices had done too much damage and resulted in a systemic imbalance of power. Additionally, after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, officials in Richmond and other cities used different methods to continue segregating the city’s Black communities.

The Equal Justice Works Housing Justice Program was created based on an understanding of the root causes of housing instability and its connections to racial inequity. This program was designed to respond to the city’s deeply entrenched legacy of disenfranchisement and displacement of Black residents, and systemic racism that has perpetuated cycles of poverty and eviction. In fact, a recent PBS NewsHour segment on evictions in Richmond, Virginia, found that race is a greater determinant of eviction than income—even though most evictions are for nonpayment of rent.

Photo of the Housing Justice Program members. Top row (L-R): Omari Al-Qadaffi, Morgan Colonna, Daryl Hayott, Palmer Heenan. Bottom row (L-R): Lafonda Page, Louisa Rich, Kateland Woodcock, Laura Wright.

The Housing Justice Program works to shift this inequitable distribution of power by providing representation for hundreds of low-income tenants, largely people and families of color, who would otherwise face eviction proceedings on their own. The program also supports public housing residents and other low-income tenants by creating space for them to come together, learn about their rights, form vibrant tenant associations, and advocate for improved policies.

This April, in honor of National Fair Housing Month, we have featured the work of members of our Housing Justice Program.

  • Morgan Colonna shares her work at the intersection of housing and health in Richmond, Virginia. Read here.
  • Laura Wright explains the importance of her work advocating for tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read here.
  • LaFonda Page shares how she became involved as a Community Organizer, the impact of her work, and what the experience has been like so far. Read here.
  • Louisa Rich describes some of the successful systems level changes brought on by the presence of the Housing Justice Program participants. Read here.

The lasting impact of the Housing Justice Program is the pipeline of passionate, qualified public interest attorneys and community organizers committed to fighting for housing justice alongside the racially disenfranchised populations who need it most.

Visit here to learn more about the work of the Housing Justice Program and how it is keeping thousands of Richmond residents safely in their homes during the pandemic.

The Housing Justice Program is funded by The JPB Foundation and Equal Justice Works.

 

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow