A current state moratorium on evictions due to nonpayment of rent is in place until Oct. 15, according to a proclamation from Gov. Jay Inslee.
Removal of that moratorium could mean countless families will be evicted from their homes and be without a place with a live, said Dustin Johnson, the executive director of the Anacortes Family Center.
Financial hardships stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic means many people will be unable to pay their rent.
That’s where the Family Center and the City of Anacortes aim to help.
“We are already hearing about tremendous need,” Johnson said.
The center is leading a new rental assistance program, funded by the City of Anacortes and aimed to help those struggling to pay their rent and remain in their homes.
“We are committed to those hardest hit by this pandemic,” Mayor Laurie Gere said in an email. “We are grateful for the funds that are available to help our families in need. The Anacortes Family Center is an amazing partner and will make sure those in need receive assistance.”
To fund the program, the city is using $57,000 of program income dollars.
In 2004, the city used Community Development Block Grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Wilson Hotel project. The Wilson Hotel is owned and managed by the Housing Authority, which rents out apartments to people who qualify to live there and rents out the lower level to businesses.
When the Housing Authority makes over a certain amount in those rents, it uses the excess money to pay back the city for the original Community Development Block Grant.
That excess money is in a program income fund, which is now being used for the rental assistance program, according to Joann Stewart, with the city’s Planning Services Department.
The grant funding is meant to go toward providing stable and affordable housing for people in this town, especially those with low incomes.
Stepping in and helping someone before they are actually homeless is not only better for the family, but is also cheaper than trying to get someone back into a home, Johnson said.
This money being used now is a more efficient way to help people in need, he said.
“Across the board, it’s just so much more beneficial to prevent homelessness if we can and with this funding, hopefully we can do just that,” he said.
The center will continue the rental assistance program until the money runs out, he said.
The program is opening this week, Johnson said.
Anyone in need of
help can email email@example.com.
Johnson will reach out to that person, who will fill out a short application.
Everyone who applies must make less than 80% of the area median income at the time of application.
For a family of three, that would be less than $63,000 a year.
Applications will be reviewed at the end of each month by an allocations committee, made up of the center’s board president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
The committee will see the tenant’s first name, the amount requested, any information on previous grants given and reason for the request.
They will not see any information about who their landlord is or any other details about the location of the rental or about the tenant his or herself.
Throughout the process, the center staff will work directly with landlords to make sure that a payment of rent will mean the tenant is paid up and will be able to remain in the house.
If the allocations committee approves the application, a check will be written in the amount requested directly to the landlord.
Each applicant is able to apply for three months’ rent total, Johnson said.