How Our Programming Informs Policy

By Mariah Willaims

As Virginia legislators convened to kickoff for the 2021 General Assembly Session, I was reminded of the past, and the role policy has played in both advancing and hindering access to opportunity throughout this country’s history. I was reminded that while we have made great strides in the housing industry to combat a history of systemic inequity, we still have a long way to go and more work to do.

As an organization dedicated to ensuring equal access to housing for all Virginians, we know that public policy is crucial to creating systemic change. We work to deal with issues of housing instability, fair housing, and access to safe and affordable housing, not just to meet the demands of the moment. We recognize the long-term impacts these issues have on communities, especially communities of color. From the data we capture to the relationships we build with our clients, the work we do with them in our programs directly shapes our advocacy. The General Assembly serves as an opportunity to move beyond programming and to inform policy and legislation that can combat structural and institutional racism and create thriving and inclusive communities.

This General Assembly comes on the heels of a tumultuous year for many of us, but especially for those who struggled with pre-existing house instability. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reckon with just how deep institutional inequities in housing go. The number of housing bills introduced during this session speaks to the importance of housing issues throughout the Commonwealth.

This year we are excited to advocate for legislation that protects homeownership, which serves as the bedrock for building generational wealth, expands protections for tenants, and increases housing stability. We are even more excited to see how our state’s emphasis on housing policy aligns with the housing plan from the incoming Biden Administration, which includes priorities to combat redlining and other unfair policies in housing.

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