Eight weeks into the governor’s stay-at-home order, our national, state, and local economies have been decimated from the impacts of COVID-19. This pandemic has affected everyone, from business owners, employees, governments, and school districts. Last week, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the jobless rate in April reached 14.7 percent, with 36.5 million workers applying for unemployment benefits over the last two months.
Furthermore, a recent study from Columbia University is projecting homelessness in the United States to grow as much as 45 percent this year. To prevent this from happening, federal rental assistance programs like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which provides direct rental payments to landlords on behalf of eligible households, should be expanded to provide help to keep families housed during what will be along and difficult period of recovery. The HEROES Act, passed last week by the House of Representatives, contains provisions for expanding such programs to provide more help to families in need.
Many of our local landlords have been participating in the Section 8 program for decades, helping to keep our seniors, disabled individuals, and low-income workforce stably housed. The Housing Authority would like to take this opportunity to thank our landlords for their continued support of the program. Since the stay at home order was put in place, 23 new families now have a safe and affordable place to call home thanks to our participating landlords. At this time there remains a great need, so we encourage our local landlords to provide housing to our other voucher holders who are seeking a place to live.
The main benefit of participating in the Section 8 program, is that rent to the landlord is all but guaranteed. If a tenant’s income is lowered or lost altogether the adjusted subsidized portion of rent is paid by the Housing Authority on time, directly to the landlord. Landlords do not suffer a loss of rent, and can continue to help house our vulnerable populations who would otherwise be at risk of homelessness.
Other benefits this program provides to our landlords are a $500 signing bonus for new landlords, damage protection up to $2,000 beyond the collected security deposit, landlord-requested inspections to ensure units are being maintained, and dedicated Housing Authority staff to answer questions promptly. We have also streamlined program participation via electronic document signing and processing. If you are a landlord who wants to support the Santa Barbara community, and you have a unit available to list with us, please contact our Leasing Agent, Jerry Morales at (805) 897-1049 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I thank you for your consideration in this time of great need.
Rob Fredericks is executive director/CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.