There’s no place like a home that’s affordable

10/6/2022, 6 p.m.
Finding affordable housing in the Richmond market is a real challenge for many. A study of the Richmond market has …

Finding affordable housing in the Richmond market is a real challenge for many.

A study of the Richmond market has found housing in 75 percent of the city is too expensive for a majority of families with household incomes below $60,000 a year, with virtually nothing left for any family with an annual income of $25,000 or less except public housing.

Essentially, housing prices have soared faster than incomes, according to the market value analysis that the Reinvestment Fund, a national lender for affordable housing, conducted earlier this year.

Richmond’s situation for lower-income households is worse than in larger cities such as Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh, the fund noted.

Lower income residents in Chesterfield and Henrico counties also face a shrinking pool of affordable places to call home. According to the fund’s data, only 5 percent of Chesterfield County was affordable for families with household incomes below $42,000 a year, while only 17 percent of Henrico was affordable for families with incomes below $56,000 a year.

Still, the situation could be considered more dire in Richmond, the center of the region’s poverty, as the median household income is well below that of households in the region as a whole, the study found.

The household median income for the city is $47,220 a year, according to the Reinvestment Fund — meaning half of the households make more and half less.

That is $40,000 less a year than median annual household income for the Richmond region, which tops $87,000, the fund stated.

That obviously leaves a big share of city households with fewer dollars to cover rising housing costs, raising the risk of displacement of those families.

According to the fund, the bulk of the affordable housing in the city lies east of U.S. 1 in areas mostly associated with Black and Brown communities.

The fund’s study also found a family’s ability to enjoy housing choice is dictated by income and that households in Richmond need to have incomes at or above 200 percent of the median, or $94,500 a year, to have access to all the options.

City Hall, backed by City Council, already has begun taking some steps to address the issue.

Developers of affordable apartments are being offered property tax relief. And Richmond has set aside $20 million over two years to provide low-cost loans and even grants to support such developments.

However, these actions go only so far. We agree with 6th District City Council- woman Ellen F. Robertson that this study and previous ones highlighting the dearth of affordable housing represent a challenge that must be addressed. If equity and diversity are to have real meaning then the city is called to do more to ensure that people have a place they can afford to call home.