Editor’s note: A recording of the event by WHRO is coming soon.
The Pulitzer Center and WHRO, a public radio station in Virginia, brought together journalists, activists, and experts to talk about affordable housing in the Hampton Roads region.
The event, in a town-hall format, follows the publication of the Center-supported reporting project Affordable Housing in Hampton Roads. It was held at the Fox Hill Neighborhood Center in Hampton on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. Residents came to the event despite a Category 2 storm.
An analysis of housing and income data by WHRO found that Hampton Roads is less affordable for people living there than in any other major metro area in Virginia—including the D.C. suburbs. More than a third of all households in the area are “cost-burdened,” spending more than 30% of their income on housing.
The panel at the meeting assimilated anger felt by residents who have been left behind by the inflationary price of housing without commensurate wages or public assistance.
The panel included Janita Rucker, founder, CEO, and principal broker of Rucker Realty; Jeff South, a freelance data journalist and associate professor emeritus of journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University; and Todd Walker, executive director of the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center. The event was moderated by Pulitzer Center grantee Mechelle Hankerson, news director at WHRO.
Panelists spoke about historical and racial legacies that contribute to housing problems, highlighted the impacts of being unhoused, and questioned those in power who resist prioritizing affordable housing.
During the Q&A portion, one resident pointed out that Hampton Roads had “long ignored” the voices of ordinary people, and that affordable housing remains critically important.
“Thank you to WHRO for giving us a neutral platform to have our voices heard,” the resident said.
Community members stayed after the event to speak with the panelists about their work and how to get involved.
Affordable Housing in Hampton Roads inspired the event. The project tracks how Hampton Roads residents’ experiences line up with national housing trends, like financialization and military-sponsored housing.
Among the residents WHRO focused on in the project: from “young, first-time homebuyers trying to navigate a record setting market; [...] to families struggling to find subsidized housing [...]; and current homeowners [...] girding their property and wallets against rising waters.”