Richmond Times-Dispatch

Missing the real issue

- — Chris Gentilviso

This past week, the RTD’s Metro Business section highlighte­d a conundrum for landlords: the scramble to court renters.

The news brief focused on a Zillow report from earlier this month, which found that 34% of apartments nationwide are offering incentives to attract new tenants. Free rent was most common (89.1% of listings with a concession); other options were gift cards (7.2%); free or discounted parking amenities (4.7%); and waived or reduced deposits (9.4%), applicatio­n fees (2.2%) or broker fees (0.1%).

Zillow drilled down to local areas including the Richmond region, where concession­s also were given by 34% of apartments. That’s up from 15% in January and the types of offerings paralleled national trends, with free rent as most common (90.9% of listings with a concession).

All of these recent rent concession­s are missing the real issue: affordable housing. Zillow’s national snapshot also found that among renters who moved within the past year, 51% reported paying more and 14% said they paid the same.

What’s the solution? The gravity of the cost — and supply— challenges was best captured before the COVID- 19 pandemic by the Richmond Regional Housing Framework. Released by the Partnershi­p for Housing Affordabil­ity (PHA) this past January, the report is a compilatio­n of 20 months of study and community input addressing issues in the city of Richmond, the town of Ashland and the counties of Chesterfie­ld, Hanover and Henrico.

“Whilemany of us are fortunate enough to have access to a quality home we can afford, this reality is not true for a great number of our neighbors,” wrote Elizabeth Hancock Greenfield, executive director of PHA, in a January op-ed for the RTD.

The framework found that 1 in 3 Richmond region households ( more than 125,000) are cost- burdened, meaning more than 30% of gross monthly income goes toward a mortgage or rent. Of those 125,000 households, 52,000 are in “severe” territory, defined as spending more than 50% of their income on housing.

Rent concession­s only are a temporary patch. So long as tenants keep scrambling for affordable housing, landlords will keep scrambling for tenants — especially during a pandemic that reduces mobility. The problem starts and ends with a better supply — and rents that don’t price people out.

 ?? ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH ?? In August, Spy Rock Real Estate Group’s newmixed-use projectwas under constructi­on alongWest Broad Street in Richmond. The developmen­t is to include 250 apartments in two buildings.
ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH In August, Spy Rock Real Estate Group’s newmixed-use projectwas under constructi­on alongWest Broad Street in Richmond. The developmen­t is to include 250 apartments in two buildings.

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