Search Top Featured Websites...
Breaking Top Featured Content:

Multnomah County Calls on Private Landlords to Help Address Homeless Crisis

1651090494-gettyimages-1161056312
by Alex Zielinski

GettyImages-1161056312.jpg

Thomas Winz / Getty Images

In Multnomah County, a major barricade between getting unhoused people off the street and into permanent housing is a lack of available property. While past ballot measures have created funds to build new housing for people leaving homelessness, the number of available apartments doesn’t meet the current need across the metro region. To address this dearth of available public housing, Multnomah County officials are turning to the private market for support.

On Wednesday, county leaders announced a program dubbed “Move-In Multnomah,” that offers incentives to private landlords who agree to rent apartments to people exiting homelessness.

“No apartments should sit unoccupied while people are living outside,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury at a Wednesday press conference.

The proposal, known as “master leasing,” makes the county responsible for paying market rate rent to a landlord while a previously-homeless tenant gets their bearings in the new apartment. The county pairs renters with case managers who serve as the go-between for the tenant and landlord if issues arise, and help the tenant navigate other social services, like healthcare, childcare programs, and career counseling. The idea is that, during the course of a year-long lease covered by the county, the tenant is stable enough to begin paying rent themselves and has a stable rental history to set them up for future housing security.

This isn’t a novel idea for the county—according to Kafoury, the county’s affordable housing providers have been experimenting with master leasing for years. But a new funding source—the Metro Supportive Housing Services fund—has allowed the county to begin offering the option more broadly.

The county is asking private landlords to waive their standard screening requirements (which can exclude unemployed people or those with a rocky rental history from moving in) in exchange for guaranteed 12 months of paid rent, property damage fees (if incurred at all during the tenancy), and access to a hotline to connect with tenant case managers at any time.

Violet Larry, a longtime landlord in Multnomah County, already rents to formerly unhoused tenants through a master lease program created by the Urban League of Portland. During the Wednesday press conference, Larry said the setup offered more security as a landlord.

“At first, I was skeptical,” said Larry. “But it’s been best partnership we’ve ever had. The case management experience they provide has been amazing, and they always pay on time. And when you’re having problems, knowing that there is a case manager that can work with you is a big help. I encourage landlords to participate.”

Urban League Vice President Julia Maria Delgado said that their program has worked with tenants who have, on average, been homeless for four years. And yet, Delgado said, her tenants have a higher rate of housing retention than the general population.

“Any unit of housing can be turned into permanent hosing,” Delgado said Wednesday. “It’s the most effective way to truly end homelessness for our neighbors.”

The county’s program, which will be administered through the Joint Office of Homelessness (JOHS), will pay landlords at market rate prices, but a JOHS staffer said that they will focus on working with landlords who offer “reasonable rents.”

The announcement comes a month after a coalition of affordable housing providers and nonprofits released a campaign called the “3,000 Challenge” with the goal of getting 3,000 unhoused people into permanent housing by the end of 2022. To reach that goal, the group requested that private landlords agree to partner with housing management groups to offer master lease options. On Wednesday, Kafoury said that the county’s Move-In Multnomah plan was in the works long before this grassroots campaign.

“We’ve been planning this for a while, and much of these tools are already in existence,” said Kafoury. “But it pairs nicely with 3,000 Challenge.”

Unlike the challenge campaign, the county has no goal of how many people they can get into housing through this program.

Asked how many the county aims for, JOHS Interim Director Shannon Singleton replied: “As many people as possible.”

[ Comment on this story ]

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

Continue Reading at PortlandMercury.com here

Share your business, services, products, events & news. Get added to TopFeatured.com. DETAILS.