RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Members of the group Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Our Communities (RISC) returned to Richmond’s City Council chambers to again urge leaders to release funding they say the city has already dedicated to help address a growing housing crisis.

RISC, made up of 22 congregations in the area, has continued to call on the council and Mayor Levar Stoney to allocate nearly $2.5 million to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and $300,000 to repair and replace mobile homes.

Members packed a council meeting last November and sent subsequent letters to Stoney and his administration, including Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders, to outline how they felt the city should move forward.

Nearly three months later, about 150 RISC members again filled the Richmond City Council chambers to hear other members share the group’s concerns over what RISC described as “broken promises” from city leaders.

Nancy Kunkel, the first RISC member to speak during Monday’s council meeting, spoke about residents’ inability to afford rising rent prices in the city. She spoke about a friend who she said was a single mother of three who makes $28,000 a year and can only afford $696 a month but pays $985.

Kunkel said allocating money to the trust fund would attract developers to build more affordable housing options in Richmond, pointing to a need of almost 39,000 units in the region to help low-income renters.

“Please council, I beg of you to understand these are not just numbers,” she said. “These are real lives of people in your city who are suffering.”

RISC member Martin Wegbreit, the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society’s director of litigation who the City Council appointed to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Oversight Board, pointed to sections of city code that he said gives councilmembers authority to move money from a special reserve to the trust fund.

“We thought Richmond had a win,” Wegbreit said Monday. “The special reserve has only one purpose: to support the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. To follow your own law, City Council can appropriate this special reserve for no other purpose. There is no discretion here.”

Repeating “follow your own law,” Wegbreit called on councilmembers to move the $2.4 million in the reserve to the trust fund and then money over the next two fiscal years, which he said was estimated to be nearly $11 million, for affordable housing.

Rev. Derek Starr Redwine from First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, another RISC member, pressed the council to hold Stoney’s administration “accountable,” saying commitments to fund both efforts have not been followed.

Redwine urged councilmembers to immediately distribute the $300,000 from the 2023 fiscal year budget “to alleviate the suffering of some” of Richmond’s most vulnerable residents. He also called for new funding — $600,000 for fiscal year 2024 — to repair and replace the city’s mobile homes.

One Richmond resident living in a mobile home, Angelino Montealegre, spoke Monday as well, telling the council in Spanish that his home is “in very bad condition” with no air conditioning or heating.

In his remarks, which were later translated, Montealegre said his children get sick due to a lack of heating and other issues with his mobile home. He also pointed to others in similar situations in the city’s South Side.

Councilmembers did not interact with RISC members during Monday’s meeting, as they did last November, but Council President Michael Jones said he would ask the administration for a report that relates to where the city stands on the mobile homes.

Saunders, Richmond’s Chief Administrative Officer, did not respond to 8News’ request for an interview Tuesday. Last November, Saunders told the council and RISC members that the administration has implemented an eviction diversion program and is working to propose a pilot program to help families get access to housing.

Members of RISC have pushed for a dedicated funding source for the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund — a proposal from Mayor Stoney passed by the council to use a portion of the city’s real estate tax revenue to finance affordable options for low-income residents — and for the city to set aside $20 million in federal COVID relief money for the fund.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money was allocated to the trust fund — $10 million in fiscal year 2022 and a proposal for another $10 million in 2023. While the city set aside local funds for 2022, money has not been dedicated toward fiscal year 2023.

When Stoney announced his proposal, his administration said it anticipated the dedicated funding stream would grow by $2 million each year and reach “an unprecedented $10 million” in fiscal year 2026.

RISC members told 8News after the meeting that they have had meetings and connected with councilmembers. The group invited the council and Mayor Stoney to its Nehemiah Action, a community meeting on March 28 where they expect 1,500 people to gather and speak out on these issues.