Photo by Pierre Courtois, Library of Virginia
Jennifer Blessman and Dana Brown of the Library of Virginia with one of the exhibition’s maps.
Ever wondered why parts of Richmond are prosperous and others poor? A local nonprofit’s project may have the answer.
“Mapping RVA: Where You Live Makes All the Difference” is a history-infused multimedia exhibition dissecting the Richmond region. Nine maps depict the patterns of poverty and growth, subprime lending, federal subsidies, homeownership and childhood education in neighborhoods across Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover.
“When you look at where opportunity exists in our region, you can tell that [the region] was purposely designed that way,” says Brian Koziol, director of research for Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME). The nonprofit advocates for housing equality; Koziol, a Charlottesville native, launched the mapping project in fall 2012 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. The exhibition has been on display at the Library of Virginia since June.
The region’s present-day pockets of poverty can be traced back to a New Deal agency. The Home Owner’s Loan Corporation, created in 1933, sought to stifle the foreclosure crisis spurred by the Great Depression. The agency saved more than 1 million homes, but its practice of redlining — deeming entire neighborhoods ineligible for loans — was racially driven, Koziol says. Jackson Ward, for example, was redlined in the 1950s, despite a burgeoning black professional class.
The decades-old policy had a lasting effect; HOME-made maps show what Koziol calls a stark pattern of divestment in minority neighborhoods. It’s a cautionary tale for a region on the cusp of a rebirth, Koziol says: If the region is not inclusive in its growth, the poverty that plagues large portions of the city could hinder that growth.
“If you’ve ever cut into a peach and the pit is all mush — that’s the city of Richmond,” Koziol says. “You can’t have an inner city with extreme poverty and limited job access and expect great things from it.”
Regional investment in transportation, education and housing are starting points for regeneration, Koziol says. By ensuring people can access areas with better education and more job opportunities, the region will reap the benefits, he adds.
“Mapping RVA” is at the Library of Virginia through Saturday, Aug. 23.