In April of 2018, Richmond received a rude wake-up call. We were called out on the front page of the New York Times for chronically tolerating the second-highest eviction rate in the country, over 4 times the national average. Even today, in 2021, thirty percent of renters in the City of Richmond get an eviction notice on their door every year. These renters are overwhelmingly Black, female, and heads of households. This is a shameful, cruel, systemic problem, but it is the tip of the iceberg, demonstrating deep substantial differences in housing that limit the opportunities of families and hold our entire community back from shared prosperity.
We all intuit, if only indirectly, that the cycle of poverty is firmly centered on housing and where you live. It impacts every other aspect of one’s life, framing one’s life expectations and opportunities, but also their access to jobs, healthy food, and exercise. Differing housing opportunities and systemic inequities are the foundation of wealth inequality in Richmond and the U.S. at large. If we can address these life-altering issues, we will build an equitable, thriving community where we all benefit from the work, creativity, and vibrancy of every citizen.
Heather Mullins Crislip
The dismal precariousness of the rental market is alarming, but it’s not the whole picture of the differences in housing opportunities. Virginia has a 25% gap in the rate of homeownership between white and Black households (non-Hispanic white households at 73% and African Americans at 48% in 2019). Homeownership is the way in which Americans build wealth and security. Owning a home is the mechanism to send your kids to college, or leverage equity to start a small business, or have resources to retire comfortably. Owning your home provides security to allow people to prosper. There are societal conversations positing that we should not use housing as our primary wealth-building mechanism, but the reality for low- and middle-income households is that it is the most reliable and accessible way to do so.
The dramatic differences in homeownership that undermine Black wealth are not largely a function of income, as many often assume. There are structural barriers, both historic and contemporary, that deliver this result.
In recent years, our community has become much more aware of the history and impact of redlining in U.S. cities, Richmond being prominent among them. Redlining is a discriminatory practice by which insurance companies, banks and other institutions deny services to residents based on the racial or ethnic composition of their neighborhoods. Historically, these practices were designed by the predecessor of the Federal Housing Administration denying mortgage underwriting to Black neighborhoods across America by drawing literal red lines on maps and declaring minority or transitioning neighborhoods to be a poor credit risk for public …….