Wake program offers financial, legal help to keep renters in homes
Member of the Wake County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday announced the House Wake eviction prevention program to help residents struggling with illness or job loss related to the coronavirus outbreak to stay in their homes.
buddy. You did. I'm assuming Yes. And apparently we are, Mr Tuckey Fuel. Make sure we're not streaming just yet. However, WRL is live streaming as we're doing our sound and audio chucks. Um, if you're watching on wrl dot com, we will begin our, um, news conference in just a few minutes. Yeah, Tim, never mind my instruction. I forgot RL's on the the mhm. Mhm. And this is probably a good reminder for all of our guests who are participating in the news conference this morning. If you could turn off your devices just to make sure that we don't hear any phones ringing or tweets coming in or anything like that during the news conference, that would be great. Thank you. Thank you, Dara. And thank you for calling me out for that because it was my phone. Okay, Always a good reminder. Yeah. Mhm and live. If you will just let me know. Let us know when you are ready to go live, and Tim will bring it. All right. I am ready if everyone else is ready. All right, Tim, go ahead and just text me when we're up. Right? We're love. Thank you. Well, Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us virtually today. Is we prepared to launch the next phase of our House Wake strategic plan? This phase will benefit Wake County residents who are struggling to make their rent payments due to the impacts of Kobe. 19 and joining me today are Wake County Manager David Ellis. Wake County housing affordability and community regardless, revitalization W director at Bar Berio Tell My Inc executive director Suzanne Roscoe and legal aid of North Carolina managing attorney Pamela Jones. Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us, and we'll hear from you all shortly. So we know the pain and stress of Kobe. 19 is being felt all overweight county since March, we've seen to take its toll in so many ways physically, mentally, on economically. Um, may you may remember the unemployment rate in Wake County skyrocketed Thio 11.5%. But in July, we saw those numbers come back down to around 8%. And while that's still higher than in the days before Cove in 19 it's still a hopeful sign for our recovery. As we look at the statistics, one fact is clear. Many of our residents lives have been impacted severely by Kobe 19 all of us in so many ways. But as a result, some of them now face losing the roof over their heads and security for their families. So in a normal or so I say typical year, the way county eviction rate is just over 3%. That's around 400 households per month. We know 2020 has not been a typical or normal year. You may have heard about the CDC eviction moratorium, which protects eligible residents from eviction until January. And while that's a great move on the federal level, we cannot wait until January to offer housing assistance to residents struggling to make ends. Meet eso By getting in front of this now, we can help folks get caught up on rent payments or find alternative housing solutions. Our action today and this was a unanimous action by the entire board with support of staff will ensure that we don't see a large wave of evictions filed come New Year's Day. So the need is clear in Wake County and our community partners are here to help, and today I'm excited to announce the launch of the House Wake Cove in 19 eviction prevention program. Like the name says, this program is aimed at helping residents and landlords avoid evictions. Now. We never want people in the county to experience homelessness, especially now. It's been a major initiative of this board of the last several years. We have established a affordable housing department. We've done a lot of work in that area, made a lot of investments in our community in that area. But with coronavirus continuing to spread through our community, having a home has never been more important. It is a basic need for all of us, and that need is being threatened. A tous time for many folks in this crisis. You can't be safer at home when you don't have a home. And so the house way Kobe 19 eviction prevention program is here, and it's a three step process. The first step is eviction prevention. Through a partnership with a telephone corporation, which we're grateful for, we're providing financial assistance to tenants and landlords to cover rent shore faults. Step two is eviction mediation services, partnering with legal aid of North Carolina to provide free legal support to residents already going through evictions or in the need of legal services. And finally, Step three is relocation assistance. We're helping relocate residents whose housing could not be stabilized. Three steps one or two. So why is this important Through these three steps, we will not only prevent renters in our community from being displaced, but we will also ensure that landlords receive a portion of the money they're owed. Both are good for our residents. Both are good for our economy. So our message today to the greater way county community is simple. If you're a renter, there's assistance available to you to help you stay in your home and catch up on late rent. If your landlord there's assistance available to you to avoid the legal actions that come of pursuing eviction, we believe is a board and as a county government that this will help both parties involved from losing their homes or losing their income. Now, to help explain the program and more details and share how residents can apply, we will turn out to Ed Barbarian from our housing department. Morning, Ed. Good morning. And thank you chairman for it. You know, I'm very excited to help. I'm sorry. I'm very excited to be here with you and to share more about this really powerful program, which has been many months in the making. I'm proud to say the Wake County has committed up to $70 million of carjacked planning to this endeavor. You know, using those federal funds, we estimate we can help more than 3000 households in the Wake County avoid prediction and is Chairman Ford mentioned. Step one of the program will focus specifically on eviction prevention by providing resource is to tenants and landlords. We will cover up to 50% of the tenants unpaid rent from the months of March to December of this year. In return, we're asking landlords, Forget the remaining 50% of rent payments owed during that same 10 months time. Pray in 2021. The landlords must discount rent by 25% for the month of March. I'm sorry. From January to March, it was also agreed not to pursue eviction while the tenant is receiving help from our program. If the tenant and landlord can't reach an agreement, we will refer the tenant to legal aid of North Carolina for free legal counsel to negotiate followed evictions provide any additional legal services that they need. If this also fails, the tenant would be eligible for emergency relocation assistance. Help them find in housing. We know this is a stressful time for people who've lost jobs for suffered cutbacks at work. So we have made the application process for House wait as straightforward and easy as possible. Getting help shouldn't be hard to qualify. You must be a Wake County renter with a legally binding North Carolina lease have been financially impacted by Kobe. 19. Not received any additional forms of referential assistance such a section eight. And while there are no income requirements, we will give priority to those who fall in the low to moderate income Canada. If you meet these requirements, you can apply online or by mail. Visit wake of com slash housing for more information about the program and the link to the website, will you fill out an online application and submit supporting documents? You can also request help at an application be mailed to you by calling 919 899 9911 or emailing housing at Telemann. Not a work you know, to prepare for the projected influx of applications. We start a project administrator who could help oversee steps one through three of our step one of our process. On August A lemon, we announced Elmont Corporation as that administrator. Taliban will help coordinate all the applications for assistance and all the intake of perspective clients and facilitate payments to approve applicants of landlords. Tell him on is one of four organizations partnering with us on this very important program. The other partners include the City of Raleigh, Legal Aid of North Carolina and the Rally Wake Partnership and Prevent Homelessness. Together we will all work in lock step to prevent the renters in our community from becoming homeless because of covert 19. Now to speak further about telephones partnership. I like to invite Suzanne Orosco, the executive director of Taliban, to give a few remarks. Suzanne, All all of us tell them on our excited t join Weight County on this important effort to help those impacted significantly by Kobe 19. As facilitators of step one of the program, our goal is to help us. Many people is possible. Avoid having to use steps two and three, which would be a great success, 1965. Telemann has helped people access services that lead to better jobs, better lives and better communities. One of our core lines of businesses providing housing and financial empowerment through the application process. Our staff will provide guidance and answer any questions quickly and efficiently. Households should be able to receive some type of communication from us within 72 hours of submitting their applications, and the sooner we can get help out to the residents who need it the most. The better. Tell him out is really proud to be part of this important program, and we appreciate the opportunity to serve the public during these challenging times. Let's thank you, Suzanne. Thank you. Add this program is going to make a profound difference for a lot of people in our community. I look forward to working with our partners in the media to get the word out. All of us on the board do, and so we can avoid as many eviction filings as possible. Now I'm sure the reporters joining us this morning have some questions. Thank you for being with us today. Tell answer them. I'd like to invite Wake County Manager David Ellis to join Ed, Suzanne and me. So, Dara, would you mind sharing our first question, please? That's this morning. So if anyone has a question that's a member of the media, please type your question. And so the chat box for us, uh, select the everyone option from the drop down menu will be able to see the question will be able to read it and provide the appropriate answer. So while we're waiting for our first questions to come in, I think it's important for us. Thio realize how much work the board has done and promoting affordable housing and how this really kind of falls under that umbrella that the Housing Department has been working on so hard over the past year or so since it forms. So I'm not sure, Chairman Forward. If you'd like to take a moment on behalf of the board to talk about how important it is to make sure that everyone has a home here in Wake County. Sure, sure. Thank you, Daria. Um and yes, this has been a major goal major initiative. The board has been for several years. Um, this thing's basic need of affordable housing, we often talk about many needs in Ray County, but we know that food access to food, food security, onda, housing security are key. Basic element. There's any populations on groups of folks are thriving and prospering away county. There are many others that are not some populations disproportionately affected. And so the same is true with cove in 19. Uh um, uh, infection rates on also a disproportionate affectation of those who are being displaced from homes or threatened being displaced from homes, particularly those who are low income front line workers and those who are meaning most basic needs throughout our community. And so this effort, on behalf of the board with staff support and certainly with our community partners for which we're so grateful to have here in Wake County, um, isa coordinated response to not only the existing but also anticipated affordable housing and housing shortage needs that we see coming on the horizon with the eviction moratorium at the federal level expiring a t end of this year. Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. We've had our first couple of questions. Um, come in. So I'll read those in the order in which we receive those the first one is from Celeste Garcia. With WFC, she says, Wick County will pay up to 50% of background. Is there a numerical limit for that? 50% for example, Only up to $5000 per renter. So, Ed and Suzanne, perhaps you could help us answer that question. Uh, no. It's just 50% of the rent. There's no numerical limits. Okay, Thank you, Suzanne. And she has one additional question that is, to be eligible for help. Residents have to be impacted by Kovar 19. Well, applicants have to prove their impact. So that's the first question. And I'll move through her additional questions after that. So? So I don't want me to take that ed. Good. Okay, so we're accepting a variety of types of documentation. It could be something from the employer. It could be a ZMA tas a self attestation. So there are a variety of documents that will accept to show that proof of impact. And don't forget, the proof of impact will have to show it started in March, which is when the federal government came forward with its with its assistance that we could use the help help. So that's from the high ground. So if it's prior to march, it judicial mhm. And she also would like to know Is there a requirement for how much applicants need to be impacted in order to qualify? In other words, how much does someone need to be impacted to be eligible for assistance? We're gonna responded. Okay. I was reading in the booth. Mhm. No, there is not any kind of measure of that. No. So as long as there's been some impact that can be shown during the correct time frame, the person could be eligible for help. Yeah, it impacts their ability to pay, Rancher. Yeah, because what we're asking is that folks that have been, you know, they have a valid, least valid North Carolina lease, and they've been paying their rent, and they were fine and then say they lost their job or they had a serious health issue. Or there were some reason that the cove it impacted their life and their financial situation. Because, you know, we all wanna pay our rent. We all wanna be good, you know, tenants. And, you know, we want to secure our safe housing, and it's not by choice. that people aren't paying the rent. It's just as definitely it's a result of the effects of code. So that's what we're looking for. We're looking to help those people that have had that financial impact directly as a result from the cove it and we'll be pretty broad. What will accept towards proof of that? So again, our goal here is to help us many people. This began great. Thank you. Had we have another question from Sloan Heffernan with WRL she is asking, would you please talk a little bit more about how step one would work? So from our perspective with Taliban, we would, um either male or we prefer that folks get on the website and fill out an online application. We will be, um, looking at those. And within 72 hours let people know, um, if the if we need additional information, we will be collecting additional documentation once way, establish their eligibility, and we will be in contact with their landlord to make sure that, um, see if they will agree to participate in the in this plan, and if so, then we will work out a joint agreement and process payment to the landlord directly. Um, if the landlord chooses not to participate, um, or the person is for some reason not eligible. Then, um, we would let them know. And, um, if the landlord chooses not to participate, we will, um, work with a coordinated system in the county and make a referral over to North Carolina Legal services. Yeah, and also, as we mentioned earlier, that we're trying to make this process is easiest possible. So if you're one of those ranchers that's in this situation, you feel like you've been affected by Kobe. You would like help with your rent. You go to the website that we've shown, and it's an online application, and you don't have to do it all in one sitting. It's pretty easy. It's very into it. If it takes you page by page, step by step, you built in some information, and for some reason you don't happen to have that information handy. You can save your application and then go find what you need to find and up, and we will say that up to 10 days. And once you say that you will get an email back with the link to your application so that you can get back in and continue the process. And in that online process, it tells you exactly what types of documents were looking for. You provide some information about yourself in your situation, and and again we're trying to make. This is a slower barrier model as we can. Great. Thank you. Add and thank you, Suzanne, for those answers, we have a few more questions that have come in while you forward King these air from Anna Johnson from the News and Observer skiing. Um, this is expected to help 3000 families. Do we have an estimate? Need, for example, how many households will need help in Wake County? Well, that kind of the funding that was set aside and accept about $17 million So way did work with the nationwide expert that helped us set up this program. And we try toe take our best educated guess on what the need might be. But of course, you know, again, that's it isn't uneducated. Guess, but it is a guest. So we're hoping that we're going to be kind of on target with it, but we'll see, you know we'll start taking applications will start helping as many folks as we can and we'll just see an additional resource is is needed. I'm sure that they could be They might be found somewhere. So I know that the commission is fully supporting this, so I'm sure we're gonna really help us. Many focus we can, and it's wonderful that that kind of support, you know, from them it's it's just awesome thing. Absolutely, absolutely. We have one follow up question for manna. She wants to know. Do we have an estimated eviction rate if the moratoriums had not been in place, or how Maney evictions are expected in January? Yeah, I don't have that information at my fingertips. I know that originally we were when we mentioned that we were a couple of months in this process, we knew that the original moratorium was gonna end in the summertime, so we were frantically gearing up in racing to try to get ahead of that. And then once the CBC, of course, issued its extension of that moratorium, give us a little bit of breathing room and also gave some respect to those renters. So that's why we're trying to roll it out now. though, because we do know that come December 30th, if the government or if we do not get another extension on this, that we're gonna have a whole lot of predictions coming through the process. And in addition, we're trying to also protect our landlord's, because these are the people that are providing the housing. And I you know, we all need that money. We have to pay mortgages we need We need to protect our housing stocks so landlords don't start losing their properties to and puts it in. And even in our situation for our housing needs Great. Thank you, add. Then, do you have any other questions that have come in to you? Yes, Susanna Perry ass. If a person is not eligible, eligible for step one, would they be excluded from the program entirely? Yeah, well, right. No, I was just gonna say I guess it depends on what makes them not eligible. Um, so if if if the landlord chooses not to participate, then they wouldn't be eligible. Eso we would refer them to the North Carolina Legal Services. And, um, if they were not impacted by cove, it then they wouldn't be eligible. Um I'm assuming for any of the three services, but, um uh, and you may be able to talk more about that. All right, there is no income limit on this program, although we are targeting those folks that are basically 80% or less of, ah area median income. Eso We're trying to get the that your assistance into the hands of those that probably needed the most with the thought being that people that make the higher income level have more resource is available to them that they can help keep themselves house. But having said that, the really there's there's it's a pretty low barrier model. And if you are a renter with the lease, you know, and you've been paying rent, you know, and you lost your job because of Kobe. That's really very simple qualifications, you know, so or you how to help in that maybe you're the hospital for three months or four months, God forbid, and just couldn't pay your rent. So again, the whole focus of this program is to help us many people as we can, so we're really looking for ways to help as many focus we can on this not not. We're not approaching it to whom we can exclude. But to whom we could bring in and help? Absolutely. And one of things I'd like to mention as well at Suzanne. Everyone watching is While this program may not be able, Thio encompass all of the needs in Wake County. Wake County still does have existing program have been implemented in recent years, in particular to provide housing support, affordable housing rental assistance. We have permanent supportive housing programs, homelessness prevention programs, um, homeownership and housing services programs s Oh, this would be a good, uh, public service announcement. Opportunity. Tiu. Invite folks to go to the wake up website on check out our affordable housing links. Many of those programs and qualifications for those programs are there as well. So if this particular program doesn't meet a citizens need, there may be some other programs that do. So please check this out, and we have, ah, one additional question from oh, she wants to know. Can Legal Aid provide an overview of the types of assistance it could offer to residents? Yes, this is Pamela, Tom's managing attorney of the Riley Legal Way. Legal Aid has assisting lower when wait over 65 years are organization has a help line, residents may call into that help line legal issue. This program focuses on eviction diversion, which means that we're trying to prevent people from losing their homes, especially during this time. Of course, 19. However, legal aid provides legal with a number of different, uh, legal issues. Uh, unemployment, Um, read, uh, issues. Landlord tenant issues, foreclosure issues. This program focuses specifically on eviction diversion. So we would represent tenants in court if necessary. We would negotiate, um, settlements with the landlord if need be. There are a number of legal issues that, um, center around fiction diversion issue and each person's to judge. Um, first, start with the Taliban, um, side and register their uh, if you're not eligible there, then Taliban can refer the to legal aid of North Carolina. Um, if you if you know that you're not eligible and you don't get the referral Our help line reached at 866 219 52 62 and we will screen you for eligibility. Great. Thank you so much, Pamela. And one more question has come in from Celeste. It W U N. C. She would like to ask. When do applications open for the program? Good question on. Uh well, it's starting with this conference. This is this is the big rollout, So yeah, So we're going live now. So as soon as this conference is over, people can start contacting the website. They can start getting the help that they really need, and we can start getting every point. And I should also mention to that Tell them on they are the front door for this program. So as people call in, they will screen and if if they, uh they're going to be given a list of some of our other community partners. So the program, for some reason, doesn't quite fit here. There are other. Resource is we can refer people out to as chairman. Port mentioned. We have a lot of initiatives that are going on kind of commission has done a phenomenal job at supporting housing and all of its needs and the general population. So we have a lot of programs out there. So again, people, if you know, toe, look at our website and see what is available out there because there is a lot assistance available to vote? Absolutely. Yes, sir. I just wanna If added Suzanne, I know we've talked a lot about how folks can access the application on the website and through then you touched earlier on other ways. But if we could do talk about that a little more folks don't have access to a computer. What are other options for them to get in? Yeah, so they can call our phone number at 919 899 9911 and remember the phone number, and, um and we can fail in an application to them. We can do an initial intake on the phone with them as well. Um, you know will provide assistance for those who need other means of completing the application. And we also have the assistance in both English and Spanish. That's the work. So everything that's available in English is also available in Spain, and the website has both English and Spanish applications on online as well. And one other question that came in, um, from an a river Is all the funding coming from the cares out at this time? Yes. This is all the parasite coming that we're using for this program s Oh, yeah, this is that's why are this program is slated to provide assistance until December 30th. And that's the deadline that the federal government has given to these funds that we need to have them expended by that. So that's why that's why if you wanted, why do we end in December? And I go more months? That's why. But the program does. We're asking landlords that we're gonna pay this back rent all the way back to March after their rank all the way back to March. And in exchange for that, please give some, uh, break and a little bit of assistance to the tenants and reduce their rank by 25% for the month of January, February March and not pursue eviction. And this is to give our our writers a little little financial breathing room, getting a chance to kinda get financially back from the repeat, get back the pain. And hopefully our economic situation will be a bit longer. By that thank you. I'd like tea. Oh, I'm sorry. I just like to add on to adds comment. Uh, we as a counties aboard his staff are maximizing this time frame that we're have been provided by the federal government Thio to implement this program and help as many folks as possible. However, if the federal government and their wisdom and at their pleasure decides thio provide more flexibility, extend a deadline provide more funding than I feel very confident that the board of Commissioners will continue Thio support this program and extend it with flexibility if were given that opportunity so that we can continue to help folks in Wake County beyond three end of this heater. So we do hope that happens. But right now we're doing all we can with what we have. Yes, sir. And those are all the questions from our media friends today, so I'll send it back over to you, chairman, Forward to close this out. All right. Thank you, Carol. Thank you all for your questions. Way. Appreciate the media helping us get out the word about the house. Wait Cove in 19 Eviction program, Victim prevention program. Um, uh, media friends, we, uh, truly appreciate your partnership because, as mentioned earlier in this in this, a conversation um, there are some folks, many folks that don't have access to streaming Internet or things like that. You're putting out phone numbers and multiple ways that folks can access. This program is really important. So we really appreciate that s Oh, thank you. To all of you who are joining us on this live livestream. Thank you to all of our partners. Um, and everyone watching. We hope you'll spread the word to. So I hope each of you stays health and safety safe and that you stay that way. Um, and thank you again for joining us. Have a great day. Mr. Tucker will take us down. All right. Jim says we're all great. Well done. Three. All right. Great job, everyone. Thank you.