State Lawmakers Weigh Options to Help Relieve Eviction Crisis

Aug 20, 2020

State Senator Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, works her phone during the Virginia Senate Special Session in the temporary Senate chambers at the Science Museum of Virginia, Thursday Aug. 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va.
Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber, Pool

The economic fallout of COVID-19 has amplified Virginia’s eviction crisis, leaving lawmakers to negotiate a solution that would keep both tenants and landlords from going under. Members of the House and Senate have proposed rules mandating payment agreements, but they’re not entirely on the same page.

Senate Democrats are moving to require many property owners to offer payment plans for tenants who are late on their rent during a state of emergency.

The effort has garnered support from landlords who say these kinds of agreements have helped keep people housed.

“We’re supportive of legislation that looks at payment plans or looks at ways of doing things that are tied specifically to the state of emergency,” says Patrick McCloud, CEO at the Virginia Apartment Management Association.

While he’s still reviewing the current Senate proposal, he says he’s on board with the time constraint.

In the House, Delegate Cia Price is advocating for similar legislation as part of a broader effort to prevent evictions, but her bill does not include the state of emergency provision.

She questions the idea of correlating the duration of a public health crisis with its economic aftermath.

Price asks, “What is the magic number of months that it would take after an emergency quite like we are experiencing now in order for families in Virginia to be able to be back economically strong as they were before the pandemic hit?”

As they’re currently written, if either bill passes with Governor Northam’s approval, it would take four months to go into effect.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.