Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced the details of new programs aimed at eviction diversion and city improvements in his annual State of the City address Jan. 31.
At his speech at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Stoney announced an eviction diversion program and a 20-year capital improvement plan. Stoney highlighted the city’s accomplishments and mapped out his future plans — some of which span 20 years.
“We are investing in our people, sharing in our prosperity and creating a place where people want to live, work and raise a family,” Stoney said. “Our city is more than ready to move on from its past and should not be afraid of its future.”
The eviction diversion program will provide financial literacy education, access to supportive services and a payment plan for landlords who lose rent during the eviction process. It will be the first program of its kind in the commonwealth. Other strategies to reduce eviction include court mediation and pro bono attorneys to support tenants.
“We cannot expect our families and children to thrive,” Stoney said, “if it takes everything just for them to survive.”
Richmond City Council member Chris Hilbert said he supports the program, which will be presented to the council in March as part of the mayor’s proposed budget. The meeting is yet to be scheduled.
“The stability of a home is one of the most important things,” Hilbert said. “We talked about education, and that’s certainly important, but without a stable home it’s hard to study and learn while you’re in school.”
The city budget also includes a 20-year capital improvement plan, which will invest resources in streets, community centers and city transportation.
Stoney’s speech included details of three Richmond schools opening in 2020, and a 20-year plan to renovate Richmond schools with $800 million.
Stoney also called on the state legislature to increase school funding, following an education rally held at the Capitol Jan. 28.
“We must acknowledge, the commonwealth has failed to do their part,” Stoney said. “The state needs to step up and acknowledge the true cost of education includes many items not adequately included in their funding formula.”
Stoney said teacher salaries, school facilities, technology, nurses, counselors and bus drivers need sufficient funding.
The Richmond mayor, in his third year in office, announced the establishment of the Shockoe Alliance, a collaborative effort of city government members and Shockoe Bottom residents to design and plan the future of the Shockoe Bottom area.
In the spring, the alliance will announce a “vision forward” for the Shockoe area, Stoney said. Shockoe Bottom was home to one of the largest slave trades in North America prior to the Civil War.
“Telling the true story of the tragic history that occurred in Shockoe can be the most inclusive history told anywhere in America,” Stoney said.
Stoney’s plans for his third year in office also include renaming Boulevard after tennis player and humanitarian Arthur Ashe. City Council will vote on the plan Feb. 11.
Before Stoney took office in 2016, Richmond’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, which measures a localities responsiveness to the LGBTQ community, was 46 out of 100. In efforts to improve that rating, Stoney and councilmembers Parker Agelasto and Ellen Robertson launched Richmond’s first Human Rights Commission last year. Richmond’s rating is now 94 out of 100.
Richmond’s unemployment rate has dropped to 2.9 percent from 4 percent in 2016. The median household income rose 5 percent, one of the highest increases in the nation, Stoney said.
Last year, Richmond saw an 8 percent decrease in overall violent crime. The homicide rate dropped 20 percent. Stoney plans for all Richmond police officers to be certified in crisis intervention within two years.
“These aren’t quick fixes, some of these things are 20 years out,” said Mak Afework, deputy director of VCU Athletics, who attended the address. “It’s impressive how much he’s accomplishing in only two years.”
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