Rental Assistance Comes at a Price for Some Housing Providers

WBPA News ,

Kari Anderson is in the business of providing housing, but lately it has been an uphill battle. Kari is a partner at Thrive Communities, where she serves as the vice president and manages more than 15,000 apartments in the Pacific Northwest.

Like most housing providers in Washington state, she’s been dealing with the ongoing challenge of maintaining and operating properties during the pandemic and the eviction moratorium. Her current challenge, receiving rental relief which has been slow to reach housing providers and residents in King County.

To date, King County has distributed $6.5 million, or 4.5% of $145 million in available federal funding to help struggling renters and housing providers. A paltry amount compared to Pierce County which has spent about 59% of 53.4 million in federal and state money, and Snohomish County which has spent about 47% of $57.8 million.

To add to this struggle, the King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program (EPRAP) separated the allocation of rental relief into four different tiers, based on priority. The highest tier, tier one was assigned to receive rental relief in July, August, and September. The lowest tier, tier four isn’t expected to receive rental relief until October or later. Those housing providers will continue to shoulder the burden of these costs for the next couple of months until they receive assistance.

Furthermore, if a housing provider decides to accept this assistance, the housing provider is only allowed to accept a total of up to nine months of current and/or past due rent, and three months of future rent for residents with a lease. If the resident doesn’t have a lease, the housing provider is only allowed to accept a total of three months of current, future, and/or past due rent.

This means that some housing providers will still not receive enough assistance to cover all the costs they have incurred over the past 16 months during the eviction moratorium. This also doesn’t take into consideration that some residents already owed back rent prior to the eviction moratorium taking effect. Essentially, some housing providers could potentially lose out on four, six or more months of rental payments by accepting rental assistance. This could still be a detrimental amount for housing providers to accept as a loss.

Now Kari is stuck between a rock and a hard place. She currently has property owners that are accruing major delinquency. “In one case I have an owner that has an apartment owing $30,000,” said Kari.

The resident was in the eviction process prior to March 2020, when the Washington state eviction moratorium began. At that time all evictions were halted. Since then, that resident continued to not pay rent and has not paid it for 18 months.

As the timeline for relief continues to be extended the problem only worsens. “The EPRAP program will only pay nine months back rent on a balance of what could be 21 months by October and the owner will be required to write off 13 months of rent, plus the amount due before the moratorium,” said Kari. “In this case upwards of more than $20,000.”   

While these funds are a proven way to support both residents and housing providers, the problem is that the eviction moratorium was longer than a year and housing providers will not be able to recoup the total amount they lost. Meanwhile, the slow rollout of this assistance continues to add more months to the pile of debt accumulating for residents and housing providers.