Wake program to help renters suffers technical difficulties on first day
Posted September 29, 2020 12:31 p.m. EDT
Updated September 29, 2020 5:44 p.m. EDT
The Wake County Board of Commissioners announced a new program Tuesday to help renters and landlords struggling with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The county has allotted $17 million from federal CARES Act aid to prevent evictions, to help with legal fees and to relocate people who can't afford to stay in their homes.
"The whole focus of this program is to help as many people as we can," said Edward Barberio, deputy director of housing affordability and community revitalization.
Any Wake County renter with a binding lease can apply for aid online at wakegov.com/housing or request an application over the phone at 919-899-9911.
In the hours after the program was announced, the website was inaccessible and the phone rang to a number without voicemail. The county is paying Telamon Corporation about $500,000 to oversee applications. A Telamon spokesman told WRAL News that the company was working to expand the capacity online to meet demand. In the interim, families can start the application process by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The program operates in three phases, Barberio said.
1. Eviction prevention: House Wake will pay up to 50% of back rent from March 2020 through December 2020. In return, landlords must agree to forgive the remaining 50% owed in 2020 and offer to discount rent by 25% for January through March 2021.
2. Eviction mediation services: House Wake will direct tenants facing eviction to free legal support through Legal Aid of North Carolina as they navigate that process.
3. Relocation assistance: House Wake will help those whose situation can't be fixed by financial or legal help to find a new place to live.
"Having a home has never been more important. You can't be 'safer at home' when you don't have a home," said Greg Ford, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
In a typical year, the eviction rate is about 3% in Wake County. That means 400 families lose their homes in a typical month.
In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered an eviction moratorium as a public health measure, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That order is in effect through Dec. 31, 2020. When it expires, the county expects the need for rental assistance to surge.
“The National Eviction Moratorium protects tenants unable to pay rent due to COVID 19 from becoming homeless. Although this moratorium protects them until the end of the year, we need to start helping our residents now,” Barberio said. “We’re launching this program today, so we can avoid a large wave of evictions in January 2021.”
The county hopes to help as many as 3,000 families through the new program.