Re­lief funds to aid renters

To pre­vent evic­tions, city marks $13M for strug­gling ten­ants

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Yvonne Wenger

Bal­ti­more renters who lost their in­come due to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic can re­ceive as­sis­tance un­der a more than $13 million re­lief pro­gram that will launch Wed­nes­day.

Demo­cratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said Tues­day that the tem­po­rary rental as­sis­tance pro­gram is in­tended to “pre­vent a wave of evic­tions dur­ing this pan­demic.” The ad­min­is­tra­tion also will pour more re­sources into ef­forts to stop fam­i­lies from be­com­ing home­less.

“Like mil­lions of fam­i­lies across the country, many Bal­ti­more fam­i­lies are strug­gling to pay rent and have faced record un­em­ploy­ment due to the COVID-19 pan­demic,” Young said in a state­ment. “With this pro­gram, along with the sup­port aimed at over­all home­less­ness pre­ven­tion, we will serve low-in­come house­holds fac­ing fi­nan­cial hard­ship or loss of in­come.”

Ap­pli­ca­tions will be ac­cepted on­line be­gin­ning Wed­nes­day and con­tin­u­ing un­til 7 p.m. July 13.

Un­em­ploy­ment in Mary­land has soared since the pan­demic be­gan in March. Ef­forts to con­trol the spread of COVID-19 have dealt dev­as­tat­ing blows the econ­omy, es­pe­cially in Bal­ti­more, where so much pros­per­ity re­lies on ho­tels, restau­rants and tourism. The city’s un­em­ploy­ment rate has out­paced

the state’s, jump­ing from 4.9% in March to 11.9% in April, the most re­cent data avail­able lo­cally. The rate across Mary­land was 3.3% in March and 10.1% in April.

Young said rent delin­quen­cies in the city are be­lieved to be twice what they were be­fore the pan­demic.

Bal­ti­more City joins other Mary­land ju­ris­dic­tions in pro­vid­ing rental re­lief, in­clud­ing Bal­ti­more and Prince Ge­orge’s coun­ties

For Bal­ti­more City renters ap­proved for the one-time emer­gency aid, payments will be made to their land­lords to help them get cur­rent on rent from April, MayandJune. If a ten­ant re­ceived un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits, she or he must agree to pay a por­tion of their out­stand­ing rent.

Pri­or­ity will be given to house­holds with chil­dren, those in which a res­i­dent is 60 or older, and those with at least three peo­ple. House­holds in which none of the res­i­dents have been ap­proved for un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits also will get pref­er­ence.

Of­fi­cials said fund­ing is lim­ited and not ev­ery ap­pli­cant will get fi­nan­cial aid.

It is not clear what the av­er­age rental payment will be, how many house­holds the city will be able to serve, or whether ap­pli­ca­tions will be pro­cessed on a first­come, first-served ba­sis.

The city has a mora­to­rium on evic­tions in place through late July, but Young said the as­sis­tance pro­gram of­fers added pro­tec­tion for renters and brings more sta­bil­ity to the rental mar­ket.

Hous­ing Com­mis­sioner Michael Braver­man said city of­fi­cials de­signed the pro­gram with in­put from ten­ant ad­vo­cates, com­mu­nity part­ners and land­lords, both.small- and large-scale.

“As a city, we’ve been able to as­sem­ble a range of re­sources for both rent sup­port and home­less pre­ven­tion with the shared ob­jec­tive of mit­i­gat­ing the im­pact of COVID-19 on ten­ants’ abil­ity to pay rent and the cas­cad­ing ef­fects of evic­tion,” Braver­man said in a state­ment.

Hous­ing ad­vo­cates say many renters are in des­per­ate need.

Carol Ott, ten­ant ad­vo­cacy di­rec­tor for the Fair Hous­ing Ac­tion Cen­ter of Mary­land, said the pro­gram will of­fer much needed sup­port. But, she said, the city should have acted faster and, go­ing for­ward, Bal­ti­more of­fi­cials must be more proac­tive.

“The money is nec­es­sary to keep so many of our city ten­ants in their homes,” Ott said. “So many of our work­ers are in ser­vice in­dus­try jobs. They typ­i­cally don’t earn high wages, and they are the first to go when the econ­omy goes south.”

Be­cause the sub­si­dies will go to land­lords who must meet strict cri­te­ria, Ott said she is wor­ried ten­ants liv­ing in sub­stan­dard hous­ing will be left in hope­less sit­u­a­tions.

“You can’t even imag­ine what it is like to sud­denly have your in­come ripped away, and es­pe­cially if you have kids,” Ott said. “It keeps you up at night.”

To be el­i­gi­ble, city renters must earn less than $41,600 for homes with two peo­ple, $46,800 for three peo­ple and $52,000 for four peo­ple. Peo­ple who live alone can­not make more than $36,400 to qual­ify for as­sis­tance.

Renters must have a cur­rent lease signed by a land­lord with a valid rental prop­erty li­cense. Land­lords must be will­ing to ac­cept 80% of the rent due and agree to waive any late fees, in­ter­est and penal­ties. The lease, or doc­u­men­ta­tion of a month-to-month ar­range­ment, must be sub­mit­ted with the ap­pli­ca­tion and the renter’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion must match the name on the lease.

Renters also must pro­vide proof of how much money they made be­fore the out­break, along with in­come state­ments for all the adults who live in the home. For those who have re­ceived an Un­em­ploy­ment No­tice of Ben­e­fits El­i­gi­bil­ity, such let­ters must be in­cluded in the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Peo­ple who had un­paid rent be­fore April or face evic­tion for late payments be­fore the pan­demic won’t qual­ify. Also, to re­ceive the as­sis­tance, ten­ants can’t live in pub­lic hous­ing or use a Sec­tion 8 voucher to pay rent.

Fund­ing for the rental sup­port pro­grams comes from the fed­eral Coro­n­avirus Aid, Re­lief, and Eco­nomic Se­cu­rity Act, also known as the CARES Act.

Young said while the rental pro­gram will ad­dress shorter-term needs, the city is work­ing to ad­dress longer-stand­ing hous­ing in­sta­bil­ity prob­lems with a more ro­bust ten­ant-based evic­tion pre­ven­tion pro­gram.

To help pay for home­less­ness pre­ven­tion as the city braces for courts to re­open and evic­tion cases pro­ceed, Young is tap­ping ad­di­tional CARES Act funds and money from the Af­ford­able Hous­ing Trust Fund Com­mis­sion, among other sources.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.