‘We’re overwhelmed’— housing advocates say a growing number of renters are struggling in southwest Va.
Affordable housing advocates are seeing high numbers of people asking for help, as pandemic protections for renters expired recently, and housing costs continue to increase. Southwest Virginia is just one of many places where the housing market is increasingly stretched thin.
“We’re just overwhelmed,” said Bryan Phipps, CEO of People Incorporated, a non-profit based in Abingdon that provides housing resources and support, including a hotline for people at risk of losing their home.
“We’re having such an uptick in activity that it’s hard for us to be able to even address them all,” Phipps said.
He said his organization is seeing a growing number of people in southwest Virginia who are being displaced as rental prices go up, and fewer houses and apartments are available.
A report last year made to the state legislature estimated that at least 200,000 affordable housing units are needed across Virginia.
Also compounding the issue in Abingdon and Bristol is a new casino, which opened this summer in a temporary location. A permanent casino and hotel is slated to be completed in Bristol by 2024.
“While that’s gonna have wonderful economic for the region as a whole, it is stressing the housing system that already had a shortage of affordable housing within the community,” Phipps said.
People Inc. manages 32 affordable housing properties across Virginia and in east Tennessee, totaling 1100 units. Phipps said it’s not enough to meet the high demand.
They also operate a first-time homebuyer program. “It’s very difficult for us right now just to find homes that people, can afford, and will qualify for financing under many of the federal programs that we operate,” Phipps said.
The Department of Housing and Community Development recently conducted a series of listening sessions about affordable housing in Virginia, and a report is due out this week.