Why did we form the RVA Eviction Lab?

In April, 2018, the New York Times reported research from Princeton Eviction Lab that showed that Virginia is home to five of the top ten highest evicting cities in the country. Richmond has the second highest eviction rate in the country, 11% annually from 2000 to 2016, based on the Princeton University Eviction Lab analysis of millions of eviction case court records. Five of the top ten cities in the US with the highest eviction rates are located in the State of Virginia. Richmond, Roanoke, and Hampton Roads faced the highest rates of eviction, demonstrating a statewide challenge. High eviction rates are disproportionately found in minority communities, with more than 60% of all majority African American tracts facing eviction rates greater than 10%.

With the Princeton University Eviction Lab data drawing attention to this issue, the Virginia Poverty Law Center brought together advocates and service providers to create the Campaign to Reduce Evictions (CARE). CARE identified the need for additional data and analysis to drive policy and advocacy in reducing the displacement of families facing eviction. We worked with others in the field to do basic analysis and GIS mapping at the outset to illustrate the geography of eviction across the state. However, we soon recognized two issues: 1) Policy research of this magnitude needed to be systematic and intentional; and 2) Richmond does not have a source for research that is accessible and affordable for nonprofit and community-based organizations. We established the RVA Eviction Lab to serve as a dedicated venue that focuses on filling these gaps in community needs.

Created in August, 2018, the RVA Eviction Lab has a primary mission of collecting, analyzing and disseminating data and research that will:

  • Inform policy-making that will support stable housing for low- and moderate-income households;
  • Facilitate shared knowledge production about community needs and opportunities; and
  • Support efforts of communities most impacted by housing instability to research and advocate for themselves.

We use two primary approaches to advance these goals. First, we provide data analysis and written reports to decision-makers, policy advocates and government agency staff about eviction-related trends, policies and structural bases. Second, we engage with community-based organizations to provide community-relevant research and data that can be used for knowledge-building and action.