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Richmond’s Affordable Housing Trust Could Receive Record Amount

Richmond City Council chambers
(Photo: Roberto Roldan/VPM)

Richmond’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund could receive more than $5 million this year.

That would be the largest one-time contribution since the trust fund was created in 2004. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has proposed a contribution of $3.5 million in the 2021 budget, which begins on July 1, 2020. He also said he will submit a resolution to City Council to direct $2.1 million in surplus revenue from the previous fiscal year to the fund. City Council will still have to approve Stoney’s proposal by May 31.

At his budget presentation last week, Stoney said affordable housing is a critical need in Richmond.

“Housing is the foundation for a healthy life and a strong indicator of community’s overall wellbeing,” he said.

Stoney said that although Richmond’s poverty rate has decreased from 25 percent to 21 percent, nearly half of all families are cost-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

When the trust fund was first created in 2004 an advisory board recommended a $5 million annual contribution. The city has historically fallen well short of that number.

This is the second time Stoney has proposed increasing the funding to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Last year, his budget included  a $2.9 million contribution, up from about $730,000 in 2018 and 2017.

Sixth District City Councilwoman Ellen Robertson said she is happy to see Richmond taking the affordable housing crisis seriously.

“I’m appreciative that the city is moving in the right direction, but we really need to bite the bullet and move it up to the five [million] and look at ways to leverage that,” Robertson said.

The Affordable Housing Trust Fund provides grants to nonprofits and developers ranging from $25,000 to $250,000. The majority of the grants are used to help fill gaps in financing the building of affordable housing.

Laura Lafayette, who heads the Richmond Association of Realtors, said that after developers of affordable housing leverage state and federal grants, there is still a gap of around $1 million on average.

“Non-profit developers of affordable multi-family [housing] would say that is their number one need: a reliable source of funding to close the gap,” Lafayette said.

Around 25 percent of the funds are reserved for projects and programs targeted at families making less than 30 percent of the annual median income, or roughly $24,000 for a family of four. 

In the latest budget proposal, Stoney also wants to increase funding for the Eviction Diversion Program by 40 percent to $686,000. The program was created in response to a 2018 New York Times article that ranked Richmond as number two in the nation for evictions. 

 

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