“Building A Better Richmond” is the city's motto of today. “One City, Our City” was the motto of yesterday. When will we begin to live a motto of One City, One Community? Rather than simply bringing people with more money into a neighborhood and hoping that deconcentrating poverty will ultimately eliminate poverty, RePHRAME believes access to job opportunities and decent, affordable housing is the key. Consistently applied, this commitment would go a long way toward not only the elimination of poverty but the elimination of the stigma that surrounds poverty, a stigma which prevents dialogue and hamstrings our efforts toward effective and fair solutions.
One aspect of this stigma is that poor people do not care and therefore do not get involved. Recent efforts by RePHRAME countered this assumption of apathy; drew attention to the inconsistency and injustice associated with RRHA policy implementation; and underscored the fact that current plans for mixed-use and mixed-income revitalization will also bring mixed results.
On April 20, over 30 public housing residents and other RePHRAME members brought their message of housing justice to the RRHA Board of Commissioners meeting. Cora Hayes, Anson Bell, and Vanessa Valentine spoke on behalf of RePHRAME during the public comment period. RePHRAME supporters gathered inside the meeting as Ms. Hayes questioned RRHA’s transparency and honesty in working with RePHRAME; Mr. Bell called on RRHA to step up its efforts to provide “Section 3” job training and employment opportunities for public housing residents; and Ms. Valentine urged RRHA to institute local rent payment and to put energy into building housing for low-income residents, not just tearing it down. “Build one, then tear one down,” said Ms. Valentine. “There is a great need for one-for-one replacement.” Outside, more RePHRAME members and supporters held signs along Chamberlayne Avenue saying “HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT” and “One City One Community,” as drivers honked their horns in support. Passers-by on foot and in vehicles stopped to join their voices with RePHRAME.
RePHRAME’s impact on the 20th was immediate. After RePHRAME members spoke, one member of the Board of Commissioners asked that RRHA staff work to create an option for public housing residents to pay rent locally in Richmond. Currently most residents are required to mail their rent to Baltimore, MD, resulting in additional postage fees, inconvenience, and late fees being charged even when residents have mailed their rent on time. RRHA said they will work on creating a local rent payment process. In response to Ms. Hayes’ comments, RRHA also scrambled to explain why they had changed wording in RePHRAME’s Residents’ Bill of Rights without first informing RePHRAME in writing and without making clear on the document that the changes were made by RRHA.
For video and news footage of April 20, please visit this link:
RePHRAME invites all residents of public housing, and anyone else who believes in transparency, inclusive communities, and better housing and employment opportunities, to join us in process and in action. Meetings are once a month, and action is frequent. Please contact us at:
Legal Aid Justice Center Building
123 East Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23219
(804) 643-1086 x104
RePHRAME will continue to work to ensure that those who are most affected by housing decisions in Richmond have a seat at the table as plans and decisions take shape. Because we should and we must!