NORFOLK – A 2011 report revealed “worrying patterns” of discrimination and segregation in housing in Norfolk, and although City Council and staff have taken various measures to improve housing, segregation remains a feature of housing in Norfolk, according to a draft report released earlier this week by the city.
“Based on our comparison, many patterns of segregation today correspond to a historic red line dating back to the 1930s,” the draft report said.
Norfolk is required to complete such a report every ten years by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Preliminary report of 232 pages on the analysis of barriers to fair housing identifies eight barriers to fair housing in Norfolk and offers various solutions for the city, while seeing the effectiveness of actions taken since 2011.
Loan turndowns are ‘disproportionately higher’ for racial minorities regardless of income, and the gaps have not improved since the 2011 report. In 2020, nearly 70% of loan applicants in Norfolk were white , although whites make up about 41% of Norfolk residents. Proposed solutions for this include having a city agency act as a liaison between lenders and housing advocates and encouraging more lenders to offer loans to the Federal Housing Administration.
Seven other challenges identified for Norfolk’s housing market during this decade include lack of affordable housing, high eviction rates, aging and poor housing quality, declining diversity of housing types, l housing inaccessibility, housing loan disparities, fair housing policy issues and environmental conditions. , according to the report.
There are multiple recommendations and, depending on the proposed solution, requires the work of various groups, such as city departments, Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, builders and non-profit developers with timelines of one to five years .
More than four in 10 renters in Norfolk spend 30% or more of their income on monthly housing costs and black residents are more likely to be in this situation, according to the draft report. Black households in Norfolk also make up the largest share of the city’s population that spends 50% or more of their income on housing.
Some proposed solutions for housing affordability include seeking new funding to encourage construction of affordable housing, zoning policy, and reducing the chances that for-profit companies will be able to acquire multi-unit properties once that property rents are no longer required to stay low.
Norfolk has one of the highest eviction rates in the country, according to data collected over the past decade. Proposals to reduce evictions include seeing if current programs need to be improved, raising awareness and education about evictions while creating new methods of dealing with evictions in the justice system, such as improved mediation services and a housing court.
“More generally, stakeholders feel that there are many instances of fair housing non-compliance by property managers and landlords that are likely going unresolved due to lack of enforcement mechanisms. and/or a lack of willingness to respond to complaints in a timely manner,” the report states.
Norfolk residents filed 68 fair housing complaints with the state between 2012 and 2021, with the top reason being a disability, followed by race according to data from the Virginia Office of Fair Housing. All but three of the cases are closed due to the complaint being withdrawn, the complainant not cooperating or being unreachable, according to the draft report. A settlement was agreed to in the other three cases.
Norfolk has also faced new challenges since 2011, such as the disappearance of missing intermediate housing. Missing mid-size homes include townhouses and duplexes that fill the demand gap between single-family homes and large apartment complexes. Homes are being replaced by single-family units or large apartment complexes, according to the report.
More than half of the town’s homes were built before 1959. Recommendations to improve housing quality include effective code enforcement, the creation of a builder’s guide to property rehabilitation and modernization, and a program rehabilitation of properties with tax incentives for owners and owner-occupiers.
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Older homes in the city are more likely to still have lead paint, leading to health issues for adults and children. However, when managed properly, it poses little risk to residents, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Other environmental factors impacting residents are flood risks and the concentration of low-income housing in more industrial areas with higher pollution levels, according to the project.
The draft guidelines offer a lead-based paint repair program open to homeowners and homeowners, coordinate with public health to know when a child has high levels of lead in their body, identify and mitigate the potential flooding in low-income areas, re-examine the zoning of multi-unit buildings near high-traffic roads.
Challenges to these proposed solutions include perceptions of low income housing and resulting concerns for public safety, opposition to new and different types of development in communities, lack of resources, developable land and facilities. access to public transit for residents of new developments to easily access jobs, education and services.
Some of the successes the project identifies between 2011 and 2021 include the creation of the Missing Intermediate Builder’s Guide, a Fair Housing Ordinance, a Housing Study completed and a second Housing Study commissioned, efforts to help various neighborhoods such as the St. Paul’s transformation, as well as the program to help residents who want to return to redeveloped property, and the Ohio Creek Watershed project that will protect historically black neighborhoods from flooding with a $130 million investment of city dollars from local and federal funds.
The city is seeking comments on the draft by Aug. 23 by calling 757-664-2467 or emailing [email protected] Comments will be summarized and included in the final version of the report sent to HUD, according to city staff. Printed versions of the draft are available from the Slover Library, the Jordan-Newby Anchor Branch Library, and the Mary D. Pretlow Anchor Branch Library.
Ian Munro, [email protected]