Who benefits? Who decides?

RRHA silences residents, voting for massive displacement

RRHA has released a proposal—outlined in pages 28-34 of RRHA’s 2019-2020 Annual Agency Plan—to demolish Richmond’s public housing courts without good-faith engagement or brick-and-mortar replacement for current tenants. The public can comment on the proposal this week. Despite the high stakes of these actions, RRHA has made little effort to engage tenants or the broader public in evaluating these proposals: 

  • While RRHA held a public meeting, it made no substantive effort to engage residents. 
  • Due to minimal resident engagement by RRHA, only a few tenants were in attendance—those residents were informed through grassroots tenant organizing, not the Authority or its staff. 
  • Following its poorly publicized meetings, the Authority has limited feedback on its proposals to a paper mail-in process, creating an unnecessary burden for stakeholders and a delay in submission. 

Without publicized robust community engagement, this proposal is both undemocratic and a violation of the rights of public housing tenants to “be involved and participate in the overall policy development and direction of public housing operations” (title 24; section 964, Code of Federal Regulations). 

The lack of resident input in public housing governance is widely recognized by advocacy organizations like the Right to the City Alliance as a private-sector mechanism for eliminating secure housing for low-income residents in favor of unaffordable rental units with high eviction rates. These policies fuel displacement and disproportionately target African-American, working-class, and working-poor residents.

This rapid-fire elimination of Richmond’s most affordable housing will destroy communities and create a crisis. Our waitlist for public housing access is already overburdened. Our city lacks sufficient housing and we have one of the highest private-housing eviction rates in the country. 

Public housing elimination and replacement with privately subsidized housing, will have a devastating effect on our public school system, where some of our least-resourced schools serve children and families who currently reside in our public housing neighborhoods. A sudden spike in housing insecurity will leave families who are scrambling to locate housing unsure of their enrollment status in a school district with limited resources to support parents in navigating our open enrollment process. 

In our neighborhoods and in our schools, the actions proposed by our housing authority will increase housing insecurity and compound our city’s history of institutional racism. The disproportionate African-American residents of Richmond’s public housing have a right to the city their ancestors built.  

RRHA must  honor public process and public feedback in its 2019-2020 plan.

Issued July 1, 2019

Kristin Reed
Community Organizer
Richmond, 7th District

Lafonda Page
Community Organizer
Richmond, 7th District

Gary Broderick
Community Organizer
Richmond, 7th District

Kenya Gibson
3rd District School Board Representative

Jasmine Leeward
Community Organizer
Richmond, 7th District

Jenise Justice
Richmond, Va

Nicolas DaSilva
Richmond
5th District City Council Candidate

Rebecca Wooden Keel
Richmond, 3rd District

Thomas Burkett
Virginia River Healers
Richmond, 3rd District

Nathan Arries
Richmond, VA

Qiana Richards
Richmond, 6th District

Alexander Sparrow
DSA Richmond
Richmond, 2nd District

Marty Jewell
Former Richmond City Councilman
Richmond, 7th District

Laura Goren
Richmond, 6th District

Donna Joyce
Parent & Advocate
Richmond, 3rd District

Amy Wentz
Richmond, 8th District

Christopher Romero
Richmond, 7th District

Jesse Goldstein
Richmond, 3rd District

Laura McCann
Richmond, 3rd District

Alex Wagaman
Richmond, 1st District

Kate Baltes
Richmond, 5th District

James Randall
Richmond, 5th District

Kristen Tate
Richmond, VA

Charles Peters
Richmond, 1st District

Haya Hamid
Richmond, 7th District

Elsa Rios
Richmond, 1st District

Maya Walters
Richmond, 2nd District

Martha Roberts
Richmond, 3rd District

Brian Knox
Richmond, 3rd District

Ashley Smith
Richmond, 2nd District

Ben Himmelfarb
Richmond 1st District

Debbie Rowe
Richmond, 3rd District

Eric Sundberg
Richmond, 5th District

Erek Jones
Richmond, 1st District

Anneliese Grant
Richmond, 5th District

Paige Bailey
Richmond, 7th District

Seth Hatmaker
Richmond, Va

Suzanne Keller
Richmond, 4th District

Andrea Bryant
Richmond, 6th District

Will Kerner
Richmond, 2nd District

Nathan Jamerson
Richmond, 1st District

DarShee Clark
Richmond, 7th District

Sarah Pedersen
Richmond, 7th District

Jessica Shim
Richmond, 4th District

Isabel Eljaiek
Richmond, 7th District

Nicholas Buffin
Richmond, 5th District

Brett Sprouse
Richmond, 2nd District

Jaylynne West
Richmond, Va

Jeremy Hoffman
Richmond, 2nd District

Whitney Whiting
Richmond, 4th District

Samuel West
Richmond, 8th District

Dolores Fitzgerald
Richmond, 5th District

Amanda Long
Richmond, 5th District

Kaitlin Eastman
Richmond, 3rd District

Bradley Armstrong
Richmond, 2nd District

Elizabeth Johnson
Richmond, 2nd District

Jeanna Chapman
Richmond, 4th District

Paul Granger
Richmond, 7th District

Sarmistha Talukdar
Richmond, 7th District

Micky Jordan
Richmond, 5th District

Liz Canfield
Richmond, 5th District

Brooke Taylor
Richmond, 6th District

Christine Luckritz Marquis
Richmond, 3rd District

Amber Hendrix
Richmond, 7th District

Camille Rudney
Richmond, 7th District

Leslie Saul
Richmond, 3rd District

Nathan Land
Richmond, 2nd District

Madeline McElgunn
Richmond, 5th District

Mari Lee Mifsud
Richmond, 4th District

Matthew Jones
Richmond, 3rd District

Casha Stempniewicz
Richmond, 2nd District

Lindsey Hershner
Richmond, 8th District

Jenn Gallienne
Richmond, 9th District

Jim Geary
Richmond, 2nd District

Victoria Shampine
Richmond, 2nd District

Sara Surface
Richmond, 6th District

Mallory O’Shea
Richmond, 3rd District

Sarah Small
Richmond, 2nd District

Daniel Wood
Richmond 6th District

Katie Whelan
Richmond, 2nd District

LaToya Gray
Richmond, 1st District

Angelica Credle
Richmond, 2nd District

Wendy Boyton
Richmond, 7th District

Katie Neal
Richmond, 7th District

Stephanie Carrington
Richmond, 7th District

Nicholas Hoffman
Richmond, 1st District

Phil Cunningham
Richmond, 3rd District

Rebecca Carter
Richmond, 5th District

Brooke Plotnick
Richmond, Va

Kristin Lennox
Richmond, 1st District

Ha Tran
Richmond, 3rd District

Bridget Lamb
Richmond, 2nd District

Kevin Finity
Richmond, 1st District

Patrick Korte
Richmond, 5th District

Carolyn Fisher
Richmond, 1st District

Amanda Echterling
Richmond, 4th District

Barry O’Keefe
Richmond, 3rd District

Mary Gale Atikins
Richmond, 7th District

Michelle Saka el
Chesterfield, Va

Micah Morris
Richmond, 3rd District

Johannah Willsey
Henrico, Va

Jay Tubb
Henrico, Va

Anthony Casamassima
Henrico, Va

Alycia Wright
Henrico, Va

Jacob Schroeder
Henrico, Va

Dean Sayers
Mechanicsville, Va

Daniel Moss
Midlothian, Va

Sarah Occident
Midlothian, Va

Sharon Murphy
Chesterfield, Va

Stephanie McCully
Chesterfield, Va

Pam Karthik
Goochland, Va

Veronica Pilkenton
Goochland, Va

William Magnant
Doswell, Va

Tyshawn Smithers
Fredericksburg, Va

Lauren Garcia
Laurel, Va

Matthew Conover
Farmville, Va

David Foley
Huntersville, NC

Brandon Collins
Charlottesville, Va

Valerie Lewis
Williamsburg, Va

Sheila Wier

Yohance Whitaker

Adam Steven

Mei Yang

Community Comment:

“Where would this plan leave me and my five kids to live. How are you all (RRHA) planning on helping us if we do not have the option to move back in. What is the plan I need want and deserve some answers.” – Lafonda

“The RRHA absolutely should be engaging the community regarding this plan. The city cannot continue to ignore the needs of its most vulnerable populations.” – Christopher

“As a former 5th District Councilman and 15 yr., At-Large member of city-wide Tenant Org.,this is a massive violation of HUD law. City Council has the authority to correct this and must do so. This is a continuation of Corporates plan to eliminate the City’s poor in pursuit of a “tier-one city” and a triple-A bond rating. Please count me in the fight.” – Marty

“Housing justice now.” – Jay

“Our city council should be ashamed.” – James

“NO MASS EVICTIONS!” – Amy

“We are already mired in a crisis of public faith in its city government, as our Mayor attempts to demolish one neighborhood without input from, and in fact, while hiding public business from his constituents. That RRHA would then attempt to demolish several more neighborhoods, and nearly all of their residents’ homes, with almost no consideration for their well-being, or of their desires, is a betrayal that will deeply wound Richmond and its most vulnerable residents.” – Charles

“Make housing not only affordable, but livable.” – Paige

“Housing in Richmond is unaffordable and becoming more so with each subsidy the city gives to developers to put up more apartments that do not provide any public benefit. The RRHA plan to force residents into the private market is absurd and will leave people without any options. This is not right and should not stand.” – Suzanne

“RRHA’s organizational culture of avoiding transparency holds the families that it serves hostage to the whims of an organization characterized by unstable leadership and lack of foresight.” – Will

“The proposed changes will have devastating effects to the families that occupy these homes. More importantly – selling public property to private investors is an obscene injustice. Planning to displace over 1300 housing units worth of people while the 2020-2024 5-year plan allocates relocation funding for less than 300 seems to be at best a massive oversight if not an intentional sabotage used to underscore how the system ‘doesn’t work’ and should be privatized.” – Samuel

“Quit trying to gentrify the city. Only the rich and dc implants can afford to live in this dump!” – Kaitlin

“Nobody deserves to have their home demolished without a guaranteed actually-existing replacement. Stop this war on the poor now.” – Adam

“Housing is a human rights issue.” – Leslie

“Continuing to move forward with this plan without substantial input from the community that it will directly impact diminishing and reflective of the way the poor, working class, and especially African American populations have been historically treated. It is time to set a new precedent and have real conversations.” – Matthew

“This is a blatant violation of basic human rights! Richmond needs more affordable housing. This is institutional racism. Please stop this disgraceful attempt to remove Richmonders from their homes!” – Casha

“Displacing children and creating more housing insecurity is the last thing Richmond needs.” – Victoria

“After attending a meeting last year, RRHA board members told my friend (in need of housing) & myself that the wait list on housing with vouchers is on average three years long. Imagine how long the wait list will become after so many homes are destroyed & without a plan to have one for one replacement of homes. Or, a housing plan that would even come close to the number of families that would be without a home when public housing units are destroyed. Developers, money & gentrifying Richmond is more important, so it seems, than providing a solution to the housing crisis for the area’s low income families. From an August 2017 RTD article… ‘According to the 2017 Out of Reach report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Virginia is ranked 11th on a list of the most unaffordable states in the U.S. for renters.’ ‘Across the nation, 3 of every 4 eligible low-income renter households do not receive federal rental assistance due to funding shortages. The number of unassisted renter households with ‘worst-case’ housing needs rose by more than 30 percent between 2007 and 2013, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That means long waiting lists are common. It’s unclear how long a waiting list is for a federal program that enables low-income families to choose and lease affordable housing in the Chesterfield and Colonial Heights areas because that waiting list is now closed.'” – Pam

“The proposal to demolish the majority of the City’s public housing units is very disturbing particularly when there is already a housing crisis occurring in the city of Richmond, which is simultaneously grappling with a staggering eviction rate. Historically, the residents in Richmond who have found their communities to be deemed sub-standard and therefore ripe for destruction are poor African Americans. Ironically, the very issues we are tackling involving the concentration of poverty within this city are largely rooted in policies developed and implemented by RRHA dating back to the 1940s. I frankly do not have a lot of faith in the very agency that has been a huge part of the problem to be the best entity to offer a solution. I strongly urge that those who will be directly impacted by this proposal to be given the tools to be heard and the ability to have an actual role in charting their future and strengthening their communities. A board composed of people—not elected by residents within these communities—which is structured like the governing body of a corporation is NOT the appropriate agency for making decisions that will directly impact the lives of people residing in public housing. It is my hope that members of City Council will be the voice for those who historically have not had any agency during processes like this. ” – LaToya

“If you cut down a tree, you must plant 2 in its place. I don’t see that here.” – Nicholas

“Basic democracy involves people having power over their lives — including access to housing. Engaging community members to elicit public comment is the very lowest bar, especially when the stakes are high: stable housing vs. housing instability & displacement. Richmond city can and must do better.” – Ha

“1 to 1 brick and mortar replacement is a must and not enough. More housing must be created to tackle the 3+ year waitlist for vouchers.” – Amanda

“Tenants deserve a seat at the table!” – Barry