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Opinion: Our unaffordable housing market doesn’t work for workers

A Virginian-Pilot Opinion Editorial by Barbara Blake and Thaler McCormick

Three-year-old Sade Lawson smiles while throwing a ball around with her mother, Daryl Lawson Lugo, left, after they moved May 11, 2021 into a room at ForKids, a 60,000-square-foot, three-story facility in Chesapeake that provides services for homeless families throughout the region. (Jonathon Gruenke/Daily Press)

This fall has become a season of unprecedented need for individuals and families requiring safe, affordable housing in Hampton Roads. The Housing Crisis Hotline, operated by ForKids, continues to receive a record number of calls. In October, the hotline answered 7,821 calls for assistance from households in Hampton Roads, more than any other month since the hotline began in 2011.

According to call center data, 32% of callers had received landlord or court notifications of pending evictions, 30% of callers were identified as seeking utility assistance and 24% of callers were seeking emergency shelter. An uneven labor market recovery has exacerbated the immense housing challenges for buyers, sellers and organizations such as ForKids. At the hotline, many callers are employed, yet experiencing a housing crisis for the very first time. The occupants of these newly unstable households, most of whom have employment income, are scared and frustrated. For them, there are no housing units and little help available.

In the rental market, a shortage in affordable housing, dramatic increases in rent and utilities, and the expiration of the Virginia Rent Relief Program have created a perfect storm, pummeling local renters. Meanwhile, the supply of new single-family homes has not kept pace with rising demand. Those fortunate enough to have funds to buy housing increasingly have found themselves competing for a shrinking pool of homes, and competition has driven up prices across the housing market.

In 2021, the