Xochitl Maykovich is the political director of the Washington Community Action Network. Edmund Witter is the managing attorney of the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project.
Gov. Jay Inslee has rightly placed a moratorium on evictions. But what happens when it’s lifted?
To prevent a mass wave of evictions, we need a statewide, centralized rental assistance program to reduce rent burden for families. New York City’s Family Homelessness & Eviction Prevention Supplement offers a good model. After the last recession, New York City landlords reduced rents to access this program because it was the best option — with widespread unemployment, how could they charge high rents and expect to find a tenant?
We call for a similar plan that would pay landlords rent arrears up to a specified cap plus ongoing rental assistance to cover two to three months of rent, based on estimates local governments use to determine affordable rents. In exchange, landlords would agree to reduce rent for potentially four to 12 months to ensure that renters can remain housed once the subsidy is lifted and the household is slowly able to afford rent again.
Given the sudden, massive and likely long-term economic impact of COVID-19, there will be many economically devastated families in our community. By reducing rents, tenants would have more money in their pockets to recover from losing their jobs. United Way’s Home Base program, an existing eviction-prevention program currently funded by private businesses, has the necessary infrastructure to serve King County. With additional public resources, this program could take on this rental assistance program. (Disclosure: One of the authors refers clients to this program.) Other counties could develop something similar, funneling all local, state and federal resources for rental assistance into the program.
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