Northam signs legislation to establish Eviction Diversion Pilot Program

virginiaGov. Ralph Northam has signed Senate Bill 1450, sponsored by Sen. Mamie Locke, and House Bill 2655, sponsored by Del. Christopher Collins, identical bills which create an Eviction Diversion Pilot Program aimed at reducing eviction rates and collecting concrete data on evictions in the Commonwealth. This legislation is part of a series of eviction-related bills that support Governor Northam’s affordable housing priorities, which he set forth in Executive Order Twenty-Five signed in November of 2018.

The program will be piloted in the cities of Danville, Hampton, Petersburg, and Richmond. In addition to the goal of reducing eviction rates in the pilot cities, concrete data on the effectiveness of the program will be collected to help develop better methods for preventing evictions across the Commonwealth.

“Virginia localities have some of the highest rates of evictions in the nation, yet there are clear gaps our ability to obtain tangible data and fully address this crisis in our Commonwealth,” said Northam. “My administration remains focused on increasing access to quality, affordable housing and this pilot program will assist the state in developing stronger methods for preventing evictions and expanding important protections for all renters in Virginia.”

The Eviction Diversion Pilot Program was created based on policy recommendations from the Virginia Housing Commission. The Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia will administer the program and collect data that will be used by the Virginia Housing Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of eviction diversion methods in the four pilot cities.

“Housing eviction rates in our Commonwealth are a disgrace,” said Sen. Locke. “It is no secret that the laws and regulations around eviction in Virginia are intentionally vague and disproportionately target our most vulnerable communities. After months of hard work in conjunction with the Virginia Housing Commission, I’m proud to announce the passage of bipartisan legislation that helps to ensure greater consumer protections and renter fairness so that hard-working Virginians are not losing the roofs over their heads. ”

“I am happy that we have approved this program and look forward to seeing the benefits it has to our citizens,” said Del. Collins. “Losing a home due to a loss of a job or medical emergency does not benefit anyone and this program will balance the needs of tenants with those of landlords.”

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will also collaborate with the Virginia Housing Commission to evaluate the Eviction Diversion Program and the effects from legislation passed during the 2019 General Assembly session related to evictions. From this data, Virginia will be able to develop consistent methods for resolving unlawful detainer actions and reduce the overall number of evictions that negatively impact low-income Virginians, including children and vulnerable populations.

Additionally, the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) recently made available a free online renter education course titled “How to be a Successful Renter,” which covers the rights and responsibilities of renting.

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