Eastern Shore Residents Try To Address Housing Challenges During Pandemic
- Written by Pamela D'Angelo
- Category: Local News
- Published: 28 September 2020
The Eastern Shore is a tourist destination. It's where Governor Ralph Northam grew up and spent much of his life.
But drive around, and you’ll see abandoned houses.
Years ago in Accomack County, arsonists set fire to 76 of them while others have been demolished by the county. There are people who still live in houses without indoor plumbing.
Decent, affordable housing for the community is scarce. On a peninsula with limited water resources and sea level rising, building options are limited.
So last week, residents held a virtual housing summit to discuss the challenges the area faces.
"Those of us on this call, who work on housing have always known the connection between housing and health, housing and education, housing and the economy but the pandemic has highlighted that for the nation," said Erik Johnston, director of Virginia Housing. He stood in for Northam, who cancelled appearances after testing positive for COVID-19.
Northam proposed $88 million for eviction prevention programs for renters and landlords as well as affordable housing.
Key to those programs is getting the word out. But that isn’t easy in rural areas like the Eastern Shore.
"Some of the people who need this assistance the most are some who have the least reliable access to the internet or potentially the least likely to come across this information," said U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, who participated in the summit. Luria is currently running to defend her seat in the November election.
Residents also have trouble tapping into housing grants and other programs since the person who ran the local Rural Development Office retired and hasn’t been replaced.
Residents anywhere in Virginia can find information about rent and mortgage relief here.