A Real-Time Example of the Affordable Housing Crisis

Image: 3200 w broad street“Vagrants.” “Squatters.” “Trespassers.” All are names we call people living in places they don’t pay for. Sometimes we forget there are human beings with hopes, dreams and families behind the names.

As with most vacant buildings across our city, vagrancy can be a problem and the former Quality Inn Hotel on West Broad Street is no exception. It’s a big building, and due to its prominent location along the Broad Street corridor in the neighborhood of Scott’s Addition, it serves as a very visual example of the struggle to find affordable housing in our region. The property is currently under contract with a buyer, and is not habitable in its current condition. There is no running water, and the furniture was donated to other nonprofit organizations long ago. Even so, that has not stopped some from using the building as a temporary home.

Securing the building until the sale closes has been an ongoing and difficult challenge. Despite several repeated measures taken to secure the building (including the help of law enforcement), we find that people in desperate circumstances can be extremely resourceful in finding ways to get inside, and avoid discovery. They have cut fencing, pried off plywood, scrambled into high windows, and hidden in ceilings. Some have brought children along with them. It pains us to see so many people with nowhere to go, and yet it’s not safe for them to stay there.

BHC cares about the vibrancy of our community and about our neighbors in Scott’s Addition. When it became clear earlier this year that we would not be able to develop the property into affordable apartments, we put it up for sale. Until it closes, we’re monitoring the situation constantly and implementing tactics to strengthen security. Among other things, our plans include hiring on-site security and reinforcing entryways with steel. Once these measures are in place, the people inside will have to find somewhere else to go. For now, we’re working with a local homeless-services organization to determine what resources are available to help them.

How You Can Help

Building more affordable housing isn’t the only solution to the problems confronting our city. But with one in four Richmond residents living in poverty today, it’s a good place to start. We hope you’ll support BHC’s mission, and our efforts to create access to affordable housing for more families in our region. You can do this by advocating for policies that encourage more builders to include affordable housing in their plans, by providing equity for future purchases with a major gift, or donating property that can be developed into affordable housing. Please contact Stacie Birchett, VP of External Affairs to learn about the ways you can make a difference in our community.