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Group holds first meeting on reducing Virginia evictions

(AP) A new coalition held its first meeting May 22 to try to tackle the complicated question of why Virginia is home to five out of the top 10 cities in the country with the highest eviction rates.

The Campaign to Reduce Evictions met to begin a campaign to bring down high eviction rates in Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake.

The coalition was formed last month after data collected by a team headed by Princeton University sociology professor Matthew Desmond was published in The New York Times.

Data collected by Desmond’s group found that there were 813,473 evictions in the state from 2000 to 2016, about 131 per day. But the coalition said data collected through the Supreme Court of Virginia showed even higher numbers: 972,394 between 2008 and March 2018, or about 266 per day.

Kathryn Howell, an assistant professor at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, said evictions are impacted by a shrinking supply of affordable housing as well as housing that is not subsidized deeply enough. When people pay more than 30 percent of their income toward housing, one unexpected expense can lead to eviction.

“A broken-down car, a missed appointment — this can result in an eviction — one bad day,” Howell said.

Christie Marra, an attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said the coalition will establish three working groups to study possible legal reforms and legislation, eviction prevention services and the supply and demand for affordable housing.

The coalition has also set up a website, https://www.reduceevictions.org, where tenants can share their eviction stories.

“We want to see statistics that show in these five cities, you are not more likely to be evicted,” Marra said.

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