Community gathers to hear about affordable housing crisis in Charlottesville

Data on local black homeownership rates presented at meeting

IMG_7663

The Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition and the Legal Aid Justice Center held an event Thursday night to discuss displacement and affordable housing in Charlottesville.

Hannah Gavin | Cavalier Daily

The Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition and the Legal Aid Justice Center held an event Thursday night to discuss displacement and affordable housing in Charlottesville. Willie “JR” Fleming, a widely-known advocate for affordable housing for low-income and racial minority communities across the country, was the keynote speaker.

The coalition was formed earlier this year and advocates for affordable housing for low-income and racially-diverse communities in Charlottesville. Organizations in the coalition include the the Public Housing Association of Residents, Legal Aid Justice Center, Showing Up for Racial Justice and Together C’Ville. 

The event was held at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, and over 200 Charlottesville residents and University students attended. 

Fleming spoke about his own experiences advocating for affordable housing as the executive director for the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign. He shared advice for those in Charlottesville working to reform housing policies disproportionately affecting black communities.

Fleming connected recent demonstrations of white supremacy in Charlottesville to the systemic issue of affordable housing that has pervaded the community for years. 

“It’s in struggle that people unite, just like in Charlottesville recently,” Fleming said. 

Fleming described redevelopment initiatives in cities like Charlottesville as "urban and economic cleansing.” 

Rising housing prices in the past 15 years have hurt black residents, as the rise in rent prices continue to outpace growth in black household incomes. The number of white homeowners in Charlottesville increased by 12 percent between 2000 and 2015 while the number of Black homeowners decreased by 12 percent over the same time period, according to U.S. Census data cited on handouts distributed at the event. 

The information also noted that one of every ten black homeowner in Charlottesville lost their home or moved between 2000 and 2015. 

Laura Goldblatt, a post-doctoral fellow at the University, is a member of Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition and researches the role universities have held in gentrifying their surrounding communities. Goldblatt believes that as members of the Charlottesville community, University students should be informed about the affordable housing situation.

“Most U.Va. students are going to spend four years in Charlottesville, and that’s not an insignificant amount of time,” Goldblatt said. “Also they’re living in Charlottesville, they’re paying rent and they’re neighbors with people [...] one of the things they should know is that there is a housing crisis in Charlottesville, and there is organizing to try to fight that crisis.”

Maya Hislop, a graduate student in the College, attended the event and also tied the housing crisis to the larger issues of race confronting the Charlottesville community. 

“I’m glad that people are aware that there are other ways that white supremacy operates systemically [and] infrastructurally in our city and in our own community,” Hislop said.

A petition was passed around at the event urging members of the Charlottesville City Council to provide affordable housing for low-income communities.

related stories