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Housing Justice Program Scores Big Win for Families Facing Eviction

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The Equal Justice Works Housing Justice Program has won a major victory in reducing the eviction rate in Virginia’s Greater Richmond Region. Fellows and Community Organizers hosted at Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, Legal Aid Justice Center, and Virginia Poverty Law Center partnered together to take on a series of eviction cases brought by the Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority (RRHA) against residents living in the city’s public housing communities.

Richmond has the second highest rate of eviction among large cities in the United States, according to analysis carried out by Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. RRHA is among the highest monthly evictors in Virginia—in 2017, no landlord in the state threatened to evict more tenants than RRHA.

Over the last few months, six Fellows and two Community Organizers in the Housing Justice Program have worked as a unified front to fight eviction filings by RRHA that do not comply with the law and court rules. From mid-October to mid-November 2019, RRHA had 295 eviction lawsuits before the court from the city’s six large public housing communities. At the Creighton Court complex, 52 families—1 in 8 living in the community— faced eviction by RRHA.

“This staggering number underlies the true crisis in Richmond that Fellows and Community Organizers in the Equal Justice Works Housing Justice Program are trying to fix: systemic poverty, a lack of affordable housing, and a rush to evict have all worked together to create a perfect storm,” said Palmer Heenan, 2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow at Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. “Every day, this storm results in homelessness, loss of property, and permanent damage to our families and our community.”

As a result of ongoing pressure from Fellows, Community Organizers, and other housing advocates to dismiss these cases, RRHA recently announced that it would not file any additional eviction cases in 2019, and any eviction cases the agency had previously filed against its residents would be dismissed or postponed. Additionally, RRHA agreed to participate in the state’s first eviction diversion program that was launched at the beginning of this year.

“This eviction freeze is especially meaningful right now to rent-burdened families as we enter the cold winter months,” said Omari Al-Qadaffi, 2019 Equal Justice Works Community Organizer at Legal Aid Justice Center. “We will continue to advocate in the courtroom and in the streets for more policy change to reduce housing instability and combat systemic inequities impacting residents in our region.”

The Housing Justice Program is made possible by the generous support of The JPB Foundation.

Learn more about the program here.

This staggering number underlies the true crisis in Richmond that Fellows and Community Organizers in the Equal Justice Works Housing Justice Program are trying to fix: systemic poverty, a lack of affordable housing, and a rush to evict have all worked together to create a perfect storm.

Palmer Heenan /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow