Submission to City of Richmond regarding Housing Needs Assessment 2021 report

empty apartment

The RPRC has submitted a submission to the City of Richmond Planning Committee regarding the latest Housing Needs Assessment 2021. The following report was discussed at the council meeting held on Nov. 30, which is now available to stream on the government’s YouTube channel.

My name is Deirdre Whalen, and I am speaking on behalf of the Richmond Poverty Reduction Coalition, which represents ten (10) Richmond non-profit organizations and numerous individuals working together to reduce poverty and the impacts of poverty. Together we represent hundreds of Richmond residents.

The Housing Needs Assessment report is comprehensive and confirms the observations and resultant recommendations the RPRC has made to City Council for years. Some points to note:

    1. 26 percent of Richmond households are renters.
    2. Half of renters make less than $49,000 per year.
    3. Rental rates have increased faster than incomes.
    4. Low-income households cannot find housing in the market that they can afford.
    5. Households that qualify for subsidized housing face long waiting lists.
    6. Three times more non-market rental is needed than market rental.
    7. Numbers of people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness are increasing.
    8. There is a dearth of housing for people to transition into long-term housing stability.
    9. Specifically people who need truly affordable housing are singles, seniors, single parent families, newcomers, people with disabilities, LGBTQ2S, and people with health challenges.

It is interesting that it took this mandated Needs Assessment report to highlight what the RPRC has been saying all along.

It is the RPRC’s position that, instead of encouraging housing supply that meets the needs of our population, City Council promoted the development of market and low-end market (LEMR) housing over non-market housing. In fact, the report states four times more market units (1,900) approved than non-market (410), even though the need is for non-market housing. And note, the report classifies LEMR units as market rental, not non-market rental.

The report also states that over the past thirty years, 94% of housing units have been condos or fee simple. Only 6% have been rental. The City has a lot of catching up to do.

RPRC members are ‘on the ground’ and our observations should be welcomed and heeded. We see the effect of the City’s current housing policies in our clients and members and all the people we serve in the community.

Over 52% of the people who use the Richmond Food Bank are in market rentals and have to spend their food money on rent. Over 1,700 people come to the Food Bank every week, 1/3 of them children. 3,883 free meals per week are distributed by food bank, community meals and the faith community.

It is past time to make truly affordable, appropriate and adequate housing the priority at City Hall. City Council should rise to the challenge and find ways to expedite the building of the non-market housing that is sorely needed in Richmond.

Thank you,

De Whalen

President, RPRC