Introduction

What does it mean to really belong in Richmond? How do our homes shape how we think of who belongs? What actions are needed to achieve a city where everyone belongs? The stories, research, data, poems, images, and policy ideas in this report center on these questions. As we write in the conclusion, “To describe housing without understanding belonging is to speak of statistics without people, place without human texture, buildings not homes.” 

Art brings us closer to understanding what is truly at stake. Ciera-Jevae Gordon writes in her original poem found later in the report that: 

...having a home is essential
And I ain’t got one
It’s a human right
but do they even think I’m human?

Like this poem, much of the research and development of this report was done by the Staying Power Fellows, a group of Richmond residents impacted by the housing crisis who conducted interviews, analyzed data, and explored their own life experiences. For example, fellow Noe Gudino researched the Source of Income Discrimination policy, which led to the concept of a Reusable Tenant Screening Report (see Housing Policies for Belonging). The fellows wrote and performed poetry, developed a large public mural, drafted policies—and all of this work is being shared with the community.

The research in this report also comes from the insights and ongoing work of many Richmond-based organizations and other residents. On June 3, 2017, eight organizations co-sponsored a Citywide Housing Symposium, where over 100 participants discussed housing issues in Richmond and policies to address them.1 Public spaces for community leaders have also been a source and a sounding board for the research, including the GRIP Social Justice Forum and the Richmond Progressive Alliance Housing Action Team.

A rigorous research process that begins with supporting people most impacted by the issues to design and carry out their own analysis, and connects with community-based organizations that organize residents to collectively advocate for themselves, makes for more responsive housing decisions and begins to reverse the power imbalances that perpetuate homelessness, lack of affordability, and other issues. Responsiveness to everyone’s well-being must be at the heart of change, as fellow DeAndre Evans writes in one of his poems:

...No one is responsive,
feels like I’m talking to myself
When help is asked to restore something simple
as a lock on a gate
So I can feel safe.

Recognizing that there is no single solution to the housing crisis affecting not only Richmond but the whole nation, we set out to research and develop a comprehensive set of solutions. In the past five years, Richmond has passed and explored a number of innovative local housing policies. This report seeks to build on that inspiring work. There may be gaps where we did not fully explain an issue, were not able to develop a solution, or could not address issues originating outside the scope of local policy action; this is ultimately a work in progress and a living document that will only be as valuable as the shared work that goes into adding, refining, and trying out the ideas and strategies here. 
The research here benefits from the insight of numerous policy experts and Richmond residents who have reviewed and provided feedback.2 Staff from the Haas Institute at UC Berkeley carried out quantitative data analysis, mapping, policy analysis, and legal research.

  • 1. Partners on the Symposium included Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services, GRIP, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Safe Return Project, ACCE, Dellums Institute, Reentry Success Center, and the Haas Institute.
  • 2. We are grateful to the many contributors and reviewers who offered their expertise to this research.