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The outlook on Rental Assistance in 2021

Our Stable Home program helped 162 families keep their housing last year.

As pandemic conditions continue to affect the job market and economy with no clear end in sight, our Stable Home rental assistance program is already off to another busy start in 2021.

In 2020, Stable Home distributed $170,000 to 162 Eastside families, consisting of 296 adults and 334 children. In addition, the King County Evic­tion Prevention Rent Assistance Program tapped our expertise to distribute $523,000 to 120 Eastside families, made up of 90 adults and 140 children. We were able to pay off up to 6 months of back rent through this program and help landlords recoup some of the lost rents from non-payment during the year. Tenants were able to wipe out much of their past debt so that it won’t follow them around for years, preventing them from being able to rent again.

Looking ahead for Stable Home in 2021, Attain’s Program Services Manager Greg McLeod expects similar numbers at the very least, if not greater.

“Stable Home applications have been coming in steadily since the beginning of the year, with some spikes every few weeks it seems,” Greg said. “Everyone is starting to get a bit nervous about if and when the moratorium is going to end.”

Both the national and state eviction moratoria are scheduled to end on March 31, 2021, but there is a chance that one or both will be extended. Nevertheless, there is a growing sense of panic among Eastside renters who are still struggling financially due to the pandemic and our Stable Home advocates are working with applicants to help plan their next steps. It’s important to note that when the moratorium ends, that does not erase the rent debt that has accrued during the pandemic. By providing rental assistance to families, we can reduce their rental debt and keep cash flowing to landlords.

“We’re about 12 months into this pandemic, and even those who planned well and had savings built up are needing help now,” Greg said. “We’re getting lots of applicants who have been making it work until now one way or another, but the savings have been spent and there’s still no real end in sight.”

What can renters do to help mitigate the future chances of eviction? Greg says payment plans go a long way in the dispute resolution process with landlords.

“We lean into payment plans for those who have debts that exceed our limits,” Greg said. “It helps with the dispute resolution process with landlords if the tenant has attempted to enter into a payment plan, even if it’s a small monthly amount. It lets the courts know they’re not ignoring the debt and they’re trying to make it work.”

While it’s anyone’s guess what the year has in store for us, the Stable Home program is still going strong and helping struggling families avoid homelessness however they can.

“We are curious to see if we get lots of move-in assistance requests at the end of the moratorium,” Greg said. “All the requests are still COVID-related, their hours at work were cut, or a parent needs to be home with their kid because school is closed or remote.”

To read more on rent debt and the eviction moratorium, click here.