Renters in Baltimore City who lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic can receive financial assistance under a $13 million renter relief program launched Wednesday.
Baltimore has a moratorium on evictions scheduled to expire on July 25. The program aims to prevent a wave of evictions by getting residents up to date on rent from April, May and June by sending rental payments directly to landlords.
“Like millions of families across the country, many Baltimore families are struggling to pay rent and have faced record unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mayor Jack Young said in a statement. “With this program, along with the support aimed at overall homelessness prevention, we will serve low-income households facing financial hardship or loss of income.”
There are 130,000 rental households in Baltimore.
“We are seeing rent delinquencies at twice what the normal rate was in Baltimore City,” said Michael Braverman, commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development. “The need is great.”
The city will accept applications for the program through July 13. Braverman said the department anticipates spending the entire fund and is prioritizing households with children, with seniors and with those who were unable to receive unemployment insurance, as well as households of three or more. He says he hopes to serve around 6,000 households.
The program came about after weeks of extensive talks with tenants, tenant advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union, state leaders, and with sister cities, Braverman said.
In order to qualify for the program, renters must make 50% of area median income or below, provide a lease signed by a landlord with a rental property registered with the city and provide proof of their income before the pandemic.
“The majority of these folks are in units that are owned by people who have no more than, say, three or four units at most,” Braverman said. “They're experiencing a cash flow crisis as well.”
The Young administration is funding the program through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act.
“Like everyone else, we’re looking at Congress, looking at the progress of the legislation that's been introduced to provide real rent support to Americans at this particular time and hoping that additional support comes in,” Braverman said.
Young said he is working to establish a separate, more robust eviction prevention program to address longer-term housing instability issues within Baltimore and to stabilize housing situations of people facing eviction once the courts reopen in the fall.
“That will be an extraordinary backlog,” Braverman said.
More information on how to apply to the temporary program and eligibility requirements can be found here.
Baltimore residents who need rental assistance but are not eligible for the temporary program may fill out a Rental Assistance Inquiry form here.