Racial Equity in Virginia

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This section illustrates some of the many ripple effects of housing upon other life outcomes. 

Housing is foundational to other aspects of healthy neighborhoods. [FOCUS, St. Louis]

Housing is foundational; it affects nearly every other aspect of our lives, from life expectancy to educational achievement or economic opportunity. Understanding the connections between housing and other life conditions as well as the full history of racial inequality in Virginia helps to center housing justice within many different policy goals. Increasing affordable and equitable housing aids in other goals and priorities, whether you are focused on workforce development, transportation, food access, or other important issues. While connections to housing can be made across a myriad of topics, we have chosen three intersections to focus on here, linking to sources of research for more information.

  1. Health outcomes
  2. Education
  3. Economic opportunity

Health outcomes

Research shows that access to safe, affordable housing supports people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Housing is a key Social Determinant of Health. Securing and maintaining housing prevents the emergency health costs connected to homelessness. Conversely, a lack of affordable housing often leads to low income residents paying too much for housing, leaving less monthly income for health related necessities like clinic visits, prescriptions, or medical leave. Substandard and hazardous housing negatively affects  individual health and the physical location of affordable housing is often geographically separated from important necessities to health like groceries, pharmacies, or parks.

Life expectancy

Research from Virginia and across the country consistently reveal major disparities in life expectancy by neighborhoods, which nearly always follow patterns of racial segregation.

Overcrowding and epidemiology

Limited housing opportunities often force multiple households to share costs by living together. Overcrowded conditions are known to contribute to the spread of disease, including COVID-19.

When compared to the COVID-19 hospitalization rate for white Virginians from 2020-2021, the rate was 2.0 times higher for Black Virginians and 2.6 times higher for Latin American Virginians.


Black Virginians experience homeless at a higher rate. This is due in part to longstanding racial disparities in healthcare access, and also contributes to poorer physical and mental health outcomes.

Climate resilience

Historical patterns of neglect in non-white neighborhoods from policymakers and the private market have left numerous scars. New research has revealed the lack of tree cover and green space in these communities, which keep temperatures higher than average and increase vulnerability to heat waves.


A growing body of research suggests that stable, affordable housing may increase children’s opportunities for educational success. A supportive and stable home environment complements the efforts of educators, leading to improved student achievement. Affordable housing may foster the educational success of low-income children by supporting family financial stability, reducing forced frequent moves, and providing safe, nurturing living environments for long-term achievement.

The majority of Virginia’s Black and Hispanic children — 67% and 69% respectively — lived in households that couldn’t afford the basics in 2019, compared to 36% of white children, according to a new report from Rappahannock United Way and its research partner United For ALICE.

Housing and school segregation

When communities remain segregated, schools remain segregated.

Educational achievement

Given that educational attainment of parents and grandparents is one of the best predictors of educational attainment of their children and grandchildren, Virginia’s education and income gaps may take a long time to close.

Economic opportunity

The upward mobility of future generations is influenced by family income, demographics, and neighborhood conditions, all of which are tied to historic patterns of housing discrimination. Long-standing barriers to lending have restricted the ability  to build generational wealth along racial lines, and the impacts of redlining are still visible in the economic segregation and concentrated poverty in our cities.

In 2020, the poverty rate for Black Virginians was 17%—double the rate for White Virginians (8%).

Generational wealth gaps & upward mobility

The disadvantage of black families stems from both prior generations’ wealth inequality and race differences in the transmission of wealth positions across generations. Black children have less wealthy parents on average and are far more likely to be economically insecure than their White counterparts.

Incomes and wages

The wage gap between Black and White workers persists across the wage distribution and is larger at the top of end of the wage distribution, where Black workers are excluded from high-wage jobs.

Transportation and job opportunities

Limited transportation access is linked to higher unemployment across racial lines, as Black residents are more likely than other racial groups to rely on public transit instead of a personal vehicle for commuting. 

Next: Solutions

Thank You to Our Supporters

This toolkit was made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond and donations to the Robert J. Adams Fund for Racially Equitable Housing; special thanks to Atlantic Union Bank, Klein Hornig, and the Richmond Association of REALTORS®.