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Advocates: Help is Out There For Renters Facing Eviction

Brent Warren Brent Warren Advocates: Help is Out There For Renters Facing EvictionPhoto by Walker Evans.
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Columbus-based housing advocates and service providers say that a large pool of funding is currently available for renters at risk of eviction – and that they are standing by, ready to help people access it.

The largest pot of money is available through the IMPACT Hope Fund (apply online here or call 614-964-2906), and is targeted toward low-income households whose income or expenses have been impacted by Covid-19.

Tenants or landlords can apply for the funds, which can be used to cover as many as 15 months of rent – 12 months in back rent and up to three months of rent going forward.

And there are other sources of funding available, including some that do not require any Covid-19 connection, said Shelley Whalen of Community Mediation Services of Central Ohio, an organization that works to prevent evictions.

Overall, Whalen said that there is currently about $50 million in emergency rental assistance available in Franklin County.

That is the good news, she said – the bad news is that eviction filings in June and July were up about 40 percent compared to last year. And that was before the first week of August, when the national eviction moratorium that had been in place since last September expired (it was then extended by the Centers for Disease Control, but two days later the Franklin County Municipal Court ruled that the moratorium would not be enforced here).

Whalen said that her organization, along with many other nonprofit and governmental partners, is focused on helping people understand what resources are currently available.

“It’s still an uphill challenge to get the word out to the most vulnerable people,” she said, adding that Community Mediation Services is available to walk people through the process on a one-on-one basis, either over the phone or in person.

“We have mediators on site Monday through Friday at eviction court,” Whalen said. “We certainly want people to apply [for assistance] as far in advance as possible, but even at the eleventh hour, help is available.”

Other organizations helping sign people up for rental assistance and navigate the different program requirements include the Columbus Urban League, Franklin County Veterans Service Commission, COMPASS, and the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging. Franklin County also offers assistance through its PRC and PRC Plus programs.

Today the City of Columbus also announced that it would be directing an additional $12.2 million in federal funding toward 26 community organizations that work with different populations at risk of eviction.

According to a recent post from Bo Chilton of Impact Community Action and Carlie J. Boos of the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, Franklin County has so far distributed over $35 million in pandemic rent relief to 16,000 households. 

Whalen said that the county and the larger Housing Stabilization Coalition have done a “really good job” distributing the funds, especially compared to some other cities and counties that have struggled to get federal rent relief money out to the people who need it.

“It’s taken longer than any of us would’ve liked,” Whalen said, acknowledging that many tenants and landlords have been frustrated at times by the rollout of the funding. “We want them to know that things have gotten significantly better, and the money is there now.”

For more information, see communitymediation.com or impacthopefund.org.

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