Eviction in Richmond: Pathways, Services and Next Steps

Eviction in Richmond: Pathways, Services and Next Steps

Alexandria Ashe
RVA Eviction Lab

Summary:

Since the 2018 study by Princeton University revealed that Richmond has the second-highest eviction rate of all major cities in the United States, local organizations and leaders have been joining efforts to resolve the eviction crisis and target root causes to the issue (evictionlab.org). Eviction has a disproportionate impact on youth, as families with children are more likely to be evicted than other types of renters (Bernet et al., 2015; Desmond & Gershenson, 2017). Eviction and its accompanying housing instability also have acute consequences for children’s physical and mental health, development, and cognitive performance.  Households facing eviction make decisions in distress and often flood into poorer quality neighborhoods, in turn perpetuating neighborhood inequality and instability at both the household and community levels and decreasing children’s opportunities for upward mobility (Chetty et al., 2018; DeLuca et al., 2019; Desmond & Gershenson, 2017). As a result, having services to address both immediate needs during an eviction proceeding and to find stable, affordable housing in the long term is critical to helping households recover from evictions.

In Richmond, where service providers – including social services and legal services providers – have been on the frontlines of eviction for more than a decade, there have been ongoing efforts including pro bono legal services, emergency rental assistance and utility assistance. Yet after the 2018 report, there has been greater support for tenant-based assistance. In October 2018, the Virginia Poverty Law Center partnered with the Legal Aid Society and initiated the Eviction Helpline to help tenants understand their rights regarding the eviction process. However, the coordination, quantity and quality of services remains an ongoing challenge.

Using interviews with individuals who called the Eviction Helpline in 2019, this brief investigates the ways the available services are used by individuals in crisis. We start by discussing the pathways these residents take to eviction then discuss the services they used through the process. This brief ends by discussing potential alternatives to the current structure used based on interviews and national best practices. Based on the interviews, we have been able to find patterns in the eviction process that are shared that help contribute to our larger understanding of what evictions look like within our community.