Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Eviction numbers paint a grim picture for affordable housing in Hampton Roads

Housing advocates in the Hampton Roads area say the area’s eviction problem is in part because of the lack of affordable housing.

In 2016, Hampton, Newport News and Norfolk ranked in the top 10 in evictions, according to research by the Eviction Lab.

Hampton ranked third and Newport News ranked fourth while Norfolk came in sixth.

“There’s an affordable housing problem,” said Ron Jackson, executive director of the Hampton Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

The Hampton Redevelopment and Housing Authority finds public housing for low income families and those with Section 8 vouchers and is also the recipient of funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Newport News and Norfolk have similar departments.

“One of the largest core issues is affordable housing,” said Bill Young, chief operating officer of ForKids Inc., a nonprofit organization that finds housing for homeless families and operates the Housing Crisis Hotline.

The Eviction Lab records include information related to eviction court cases, such as defendant and plaintiff names, the defendant’s address, monetary judgment information and an outcome for the case, according to the Eviction Lab website.

After calculating that data, the researchers combined the records with demographic information from the U.S. Census Bureau “to paint a better picture of the areas in which these evictions are happening,” according to the website.

Hampton had 10.5 percent of its renters evicted in 2016. Newport News had 10.23 percent and Norfolk had 8.65 percent, according to the Eviction Lab data.

Young and Jackson said they’ve both seen the statistics published by the Eviction Lab and hope their organizations can help locals find stable housing.

They said the ideal amount people should be paying for rent is 30 percent of their total household income.

But that’s not the reality.

“For most families to spend only 30 percent (of their monthly income) on housing is completely out of reach,” Young said.

Young said he’s seen people spend upward of 60 percent of their monthly income on rent, which takes money away for other necessities like food and transportation.

Jackson said the Hampton Redevelopment and Housing Authority had three evictions in 2016 out of their 261 public housing units.

The executive director of the organization said the figure is low in comparison with higher eviction rates in the city because his department heavily vets potential renters before placing them in housing.

Some of the factors the Redevelopment and Housing Authority considers is household income, total number of family members and if anyone in the family is disabled.

In total, the Hampton Redevelopment Housing Authority has 2,700 housing units designated for Section 8 vouchers.

The Section 8 voucher program is the federal government’s program for assisting very low income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market, according to HUD.

Despite having programs set in place to find stable housing for low income residents, there doesn’t seem to be enough to go around.

Jackson said both the public housing units and the private market Section 8 units have a waitlist.

The public housing unit waitlist is in the “few hundreds” while the Section 8 waitlist is in the thousands, Jackson said.

Young said the Housing Crisis Hotline received 20,000 calls last year from people trying to find shelter.

Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg, a nonprofit organization that has rebuilt, renovated and renovated more than 250 homes since 1985, is trying to solve the affordable housing issue at the micro level.

The Peninsula chapter’s executive director, Janet Green, said the organization has built 17 homes for families along the Peninsula since last July, which is the most they’ve ever done in a year.

“The good news is eviction is rentals,” Green said. “Our focus is home ownership.”

The organization relies on building partnerships, volunteer labor, donated materials to build homes for families with an income between 45-80 percent of the area median income. The families buy the homes with a no interest and 20- to 30-year mortgage.

The median income in Hampton is $49,890, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Habitat for Humanity, in partnership with Wells Fargo and other officials from the City of Hampton and Hampton Redevelopment and Housing Authority, will present one Hampton family with a home next Thursday.

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