On Thursday King County Executive Dow Constantine announced a new $41.4 million rental assistance program for people with low incomes who've been hit by COVID-19. The county expects the program to help "7,700 to 10,000 households" keep a roof over their head, and it will continue through the end of the year.
For comparison, the latest numbers from the Household Pulse Survey show that nearly 41,600 households in the Seattle metro area have "no confidence" they can make next month's rent. Nearly 209,800 only had "slight confidence." Over 182,400 didn't pay rent last month at all.
Partly because the county derived the bulk of the program's funds ($28.7 million) from the Federal CARES Act, the county had to tie the money to a bunch of eligibility requirements. But it's better than watching a bunch of landlords evict a bunch of poor people once moratoriums lift.
To be eligible for assistance, tenants must meet all of the following criteria:
• Income over the past 60 days must be at or below 50% of the Area Median Income.
• The tenant must be a little behind or totally behind on at least one month of rent since March 1.
• One of the following "secondary criteria" must apply to the tenant: they pay more than 50% of income in rent, they have a history of homelessness or eviction, they have been a victim of housing discrimination, they're at risk of severe illness, or they have a disability.
The county will dole out the assistance from three
I'm not going to say the disgusting word "buckets" barrels:
• A $17.9 million large landlord barrel: Large landlords and property owners (10 or more units) can apply for relief through this fund. The county will focus on serving "Low Income Tax Credit properties or properties in the zip codes with the highest unemployment and COVID-19 disease burdens," they say.
• A $10 million small landlord lottery: Small landlords and individual tenants can apply for relief through this fund. Starting September 14, every week the county will run a lottery. Tenants and small landlords will have to fill out an eligibility form to enter, and the county will notify winners and losers. The lottery will continue until funds run out. This idea might sound fucked up, but it's more equitable than a first-come first-serve situation.
• A $2 million mobile home park barrel: People who own trailer parks can apply for relief through this fund. It's smaller because most people who live in mobile homes only pay rent on the land.
• The county is also allocating $5 million to United Way’s Rental Assistance Program. That money will come once Gov. Inslee's statewide eviction moratorium expires on October 15. If he extends the order, the county will reallocate the money to one of the other funds.
The county will set aside the rest of the money for outreach, application assistance, and to handle grievances.
Some conditions apply. If landlords want to take this money, they'll have to agree to accept 80% of the rent amount or the fair market rate of the unit—whichever is less—and waive any additional rent owed beyond three months. They'll also have to agree "not to raise rents, evict the tenant, or refuse to renew a tenancy other than for good cause before March 31, 2021." Many landlords will likely take this deal, as they're leveraged to all hell.
The county is taking public comment on this plan through August 25, after which the program will begin.