The Partnership for Housing Affordability was founded in 2004 and was established as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charity in 2006, envisioning a coordinated, regional approach to affordable housing that is supported by the citizens and elected leadership of the jurisdictions that make up the Richmond metropolitan area.
The Partnership has been a resource for affordable housing information since 2006, when it participated in a panel presentation at the Governor's Housing Conference, and began to provide information to the Richmond Times-Dispatch for its forums on affordable housing and affordable housing stories.
In addition, the Partnership has worked to provide timely, local research about affordable housing issues since its establishment. In 2007, the Partnership joined the Southern Environmental Law Center in presenting a study and symposium entitled Connections and Choices, which addressed the subjects of affordable housing and smarter growth, and in 2008 it worked with the Greater Richmond Chamber on a major regional study on employer/employee attitudes about affordable workforce housing. In April, 2010, the Partnership released two local studies at its Housing Affordability Symposium, which explored the benefits of mixed use/mixed income developments, and the importance of incorporating sound environmental principals into future planning for the region.
The Partnership’s most recognized program is Affordable Housing Awareness Week (AHAW), which will celebrate its 5th anniversary this year. This annual event addresses the growing need in greater Richmond for more affordable housing options, featuring a high profile week of volunteering by hundreds of Richmond residents for local housing non-profit partners, including: Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity, Virginia Supportive Housing, the Better Housing Coalition, Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), Rebuilding Together Richmond, project:Homes, Boaz and Ruth, Community Housing Partners, Homeward, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Virginia LISC, Richmond Community Development Alliance, and Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation.
Affordable housing is a complex and multi-faceted challenge that encompasses a gamut of needs and a number of populations. As a matter of public policy, housing affordability touches on numerous other challenges, such as education, transportation, land use, and economic development. Nationally, it has been shown that the lack of an adequate, diverse supply of affordable housing has direct, documented, negative consequences for a region’s economic vitality and quality of life. The Partnership believes that the Richmond region can protect the quality of life of its residents by making sure that there is a sufficient stock of affordable housing, located in communities with pleasant neighborhoods and excellent schools, where services are strong, reliable, and efficient, and employment centers are nearby.
Although there are many factors used to assess housing affordability, it is generally understood that housing that is affordable should cost no more than 30% of monthly household income. Those who pay more than 30% are “cost burdened.” In the Richmond region, more than 95,000 homeowners are cost burdened, and more than 63% of them have low to moderate incomes of less than $49,000 (Source: U.S. Census, American Community Survey and Virginia Tech Center for Housing Research). Market factors contribute further to the problems of being cost burdened; even with a decline in housing prices and record-low interest rates, the opportunity for residents to rent or purchase affordable housing is dependent on having available credit, a factor that has also changed significantly in recent times, making it as difficult as ever to secure affordable housing in our area.
The Partnership believes that the best way to address affordable housing challenges in the Richmond area is to focus on the needs of our neighbors today, by providing direct assistance through our local partners, while at the same time carefully planning for a vibrant future.
Annual Affordable Housing Awareness Week (AHAW)
The objective of AHAW is to increase awareness about challenges related to housing affordability in the Richmond area with educational programs and events attended by the public, local business and government leaders and the media, and to directly assist those in need of affordable housing by providing large numbers of volunteers to work directly with local housing non-profits.
Each spring, local housing non-profit partners will be gearing up to have projects ready to accommodate the hundreds of volunteers who will be put to work for a week. Volunteers may register for the project of their choice, starting in early March. Employers will be asked to give their employees a paid day off so that they may work on-site with an AHAW housing non-profit partner for one day.
During AHAW, volunteers will report to the jobsites that they registered for, often working side-by-side with those who will be benefiting from their efforts. Other events are held during the week to increase awareness of the need for affordable housing in the region. “Walking in Their Shoes,” the annual homeless simulation in partnership with Homeward, allows leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds to assume the identity of a homeless individual, attempting to secure needed services and reporting on their experiences.
All of these efforts during AHAW will help to provide a comprehensive picture of the many affordable housing needs in the Richmond region, from the challenges of being homeless, to overcoming barriers to become a first time homeowner, to the importance of maintaining a home while aging in place.