|RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the new Virginia Eviction Reduction Pilot (VERP) Program, which will award more than $2.6 million in grants to 14 localities to help build capacity and implement eviction prevention and diversion programs that address the underlying causes of evictions.
The funding will support several communities identified as having the highest eviction rates in the Commonwealth, including the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, and Richmond. The four eviction prevention pilot programs in these cities will support local and regional initiatives in the counties of Gloucester, James City, Lee, Matthews, Scott, Wise, and York, as well as the cities of Norton, Poquoson, and Williamsburg.
“The affordable housing crisis predates the COVID-19 pandemic and we have to address the underlying causes of evictions if we want to emerge stronger and continue moving Virginia forward,” said Governor Northam. “This pilot program will implement targeted, equitable solutions to help improve the overall resilience of our communities and strengthen local capacity to deliver eviction prevention services now and into the future.”
Governor Northam signed Executive Order Twenty-Five in November 2018 to prioritize efforts to reduce eviction rates and bolster housing stability across the Commonwealth. In 2019, as part of his historic budget to address affordable housing needs across Virginia, Governor Northam proposed $6.6 million, or $3.3 million per year, to establish an eviction prevention and diversion pilot program. During the 2020 Special Session, the General Assembly approved, and Governor Northam signed, a two-year budget that included $6.6 million for the pilot program. The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development was directed to design and implement the pilot program using a coordinated systems approach to effectively prevent evictions and address immediate and long-term housing needs. This includes creating a collective impact model where organizations that serve as a safety-net within the community collaborate to ensure households have early access to resources to stabilize their housing situations. To learn more about the VERP, visit dhcd.virginia.gov/verp.
“Safe, stable housing is essential for public health, financial stability, and economic recovery,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “These eviction prevention programs will develop a coordinated network of organizations that assist households facing housing instability and imminent evictions while providing a clear roadmap for future eviction relief.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic fallout has exacerbated housing instability and inequality in the Commonwealth and across the country, with disproportionate impacts on communities of color and low-income communities. Virginia has responded in part by providing rent and mortgage assistance through the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program. Localities have also utilized federal and local funds to administer their own rent relief initiatives. While state and local efforts seek to assist households facing eviction or foreclosure due to the pandemic, the goal of this pilot is to address systemic issues impacting housing insecurity and the high rate of evictions in Virginia.
Tenants and landlords currently in need of rental assistance through the Virginia Rent Relief Program should check their eligibility by completing the self-assessment at dhcd.virginia.gov/eligibility or by dialing 2-1-1 from their phones. Tenants may be eligible for rent arrears payments back to April 1, 2020 and up to three months of payments into the future. The Commonwealth remains focused on helping eligible households access resources to maintain housing stability during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future. For additional housing resources, visit StayHomeVirginia.com.
2021 VERP Grant Awards:
United Way of the Virginia Peninsula
Gloucester, James City, Mathews, and York counties and the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg
The United Way of the Virginia Peninsula (UWVP) will provide eviction prevention services to the cities and counties on the Virginia Peninsula, specifically targeting the cities of Hampton and Newport News, which are priority areas with high rates of eviction. The grant will enable UWVP to enhance current information and referral systems, creating a network of housing solutions, and increasing the accessibility of eviction services. Funds will be used to cover rent, utilities, legal expenses, child care, and other necessities for individuals and families facing eviction. The grant award will fund two full-time advocates who will be responsible for navigating the overall services provided through the pilot program.
Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia
City of Richmond
Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME) will serve the City of Richmond, a priority area with the highest rate of evictions in the Commonwealth. In partnership with the City of Richmond, Greater Richmond Bar Foundation, Firms in Service, and Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, HOME launched the Eviction Diversion Program in 2018, the first such program in the region. This funding will enable HOME to build upon the success of the Eviction Diversion Program by expanding outreach efforts to high-need communities, providing additional rental assistance, and expanding case management. The grant award will fund two additional eviction diversion counselors to work with clients providing intake, counseling, and rental assistance.
Norfolk Eviction Diversion and Support Program
City of Norfolk
This project will provide eviction prevention and diversion services to the City of Norfolk, a priority area with a high rate of evictions. The grant will allow Norfolk to fund and expand upon strategies identified in its Eviction Action Plan, developed as part of its participation in an eviction cohort sponsored by the National League of Cities in March 2020. Services will be prioritized for families with children due to the detrimental impact eviction places on children. Norfolk will work in partnership with local community organizations to provide rental assistance and other necessary services to households.
Family Crisis Support Services
Lee, Scott, and Wise counties and the City of Norton
Family Crisis Support Services Inc. (FCSS) will provide eviction prevention services for rural communities that may experience significant informal evictions not accounted for in available eviction data. FCSS will utilize their coordinated entry process in addition to working with local landlords and property managers to identify individuals and families at risk of eviction. The grant award will allow FCSS to provide case management and financial assistance to families and individuals facing eviction. As the lead agency of its local planning group, FCSS will work closely with partner organizations to reach families and coordinate services across the community.