Economic prosperity and quality of life in the Richmond area and how those factors tie into housing was the focus Tuesday morning at a forum presented as part of the ninth annual Affordable Housing Awareness Week.
About 140 people attended the event at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond.
Quality, affordable housing can help create healthy living situations and lifestyles, said Ashley Hall, a keynote speaker and manager of the Capital Region Collaborative, an effort involving government, business and the community to identify and implement priorities to enhance the quality of life in the Richmond area.
What’s more, it has the potential to have a positive effect on children and their educational success, Hall said.
She noted how 88.4 percent of high school students in the region graduate. “That leaves 1,300 kids without the skills they need to move forward.”
Hall presented 2015 findings from the Capital Region Collaborative’s newly published RVA Snapshot, a report packed with data about the Richmond region such as the area’s average age (37.9); race (58 percent white, 29 percent black) and reliance on motor vehicles for transportation.
“Less than a third of the (metropolitan statistical area) lives near a transit stop,” Hall said. “We are extremely dependent on the automobile.”
The report looks at how the Richmond area, with 1.26 million people, compares with five other cities that have similar population levels: Austin, Texas; Hartford, Conn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Raleigh, N.C.
The average annual wage of $51,229 in the Richmond area was in the middle of the pack, while employment growth of 1.9 percent here was slower than in the other cities.
By mashing together all the indicators from education to job creation, workforce preparation, social stability, health levels and coordinated transportation, the Richmond area was ranked No. 4, behind Austin, Hartford and Raleigh.
For indicators specific to the area, the collaborative focused on Richmond, Ashland and the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, Powhatan and New Kent.
“We have our challenges, but it is equally important to lift up our positives,” said Laura Lafayette, chief executive officer of the Richmond Association of Realtors and a longtime champion for affordable housing in the Richmond area.
Lafayette, who opened the forum, talked about the need to create and maintain an adequate supply of affordable housing.
Richard Dickinson, a senior credit officer of Portsmouth-based TowneBank — the lead sponsor of the event — spoke about “home.”
“Home is where we live, raise our families, gather around the table, decompress from work, where we care about our neighbors and streets, where we grow and prosper,” Dickinson said.
Speakers John Accordino, a professor of urban planning at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Thomas Jacobsen, an adjunct professor at VCU, focused on the development of Metro View Tracker, an interactive database giving users access to demographic and land-use data to identify trends in the area. Accordino called it a powerful statistical tool that looks at such information as housing, employment and land values in any defined area, whether it is the Jefferson Davis corridor, for example, or western Henrico County.
“The system helps us see the region at the most fundamental level of detail,” Accordino said. “If we can see how one thing affects something else, we can make wiser choices as a region.”
Lafayette said she hopes Richmond will use the Metro View Tracker as a way to use baseline metrics to measure the evolution of the Bus Rapid Transit corridor, a 7.6-mile route from Rocketts Landing in east Richmond to Willow Lawn in west Richmond. Operations are expected to begin late next year.