Antioch will use its latest federal CARES Act grant to help lower-income households pay rents or mortgages and provide legal services for those facing evictions.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to spend $500,00 of the $644,289 from its third-round Community Development Block Grant for a rental/mortgage assistance pool to be allocated through Shelter Inc. and St. Vincent de Paul.
The city will also spend another $150,000 to contract with ECHO Housing to create a program to provide prevent homelessness with legal assistance for evictions and foreclosures for lower income households. Another $80,000 in housing successor funds also will be included to bring the total fund to $205,000. About $19,000 of the grant will be set aside for administration, if needed, or will be rolled back into the tenant/homeowner grant pool.
The grants are part of the $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act signed on March 27, which authorized billions of dollars in relief to state and local governments to provide assistance for people affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Since March, Antioch received $1,153,546 from the program.
Teri House, CDBG housing consultant, said a council subcommittee had met several times before deciding on the recommendations. They also looked at various recommendations from community groups that asked for additional eviction prevention and eviction funds to prevent people from becoming homeless once the moratoriums end in January.
The new plan also allocates $339,711 in CDBG federal funds to Housing Revolving Loan funds for a homebuyer down-payment assistance program inadvertently left off in May.
“Relative to the need that is out there it is a small amount although a substantial amount of money, but there is anticipated to be a great deal of need,” House said regarding the rental/mortgage assistance for low-income residents.
Mayor-elect Lamar Thorpe applauded the rental/mortgage help.
“I’m glad we’re focusing on COVID response and that’s really important,” Thorpe said.
A number of speakers also urged council members to approve the allocations.
Christine Clark of East County Regional Group thanked the council for considering the money for tenant legal services.
“The $205,000 for the wraparound program for outreach, education and representation is excellent,” she said. “We would like to compliment the council for taking leadership in this moment.”
Clark, who herself lost her job recently, added that for many in similar situations similar the pandemic has caused a lot of stress.
“As parents of young children, the stress and anxiety of waiting to be evicted is causing extreme harm (for many),” she said. “The council support will provide the needed security and assurance to multilingual families while also keeping thousands of children housed.”
Krsit Laughlin of East Bay Alliance and the Raise the Roof Coalition said the money to provide legal assistance for tenants is much-needed.
“People were already struggling with housing issues and now we’ve seen the floodgates opening with many more people fearing evictions,” she said. “We are relieved that California Assembly Bill 3088 (COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act) is providing some amount of protections, but the challenge is it is a very complicated law and a lot of landlords are not communicating the protections to tenants or tenants don’t understand them.”
She added that the investment in legal defense is “very cost-effective.” “It is a key strategy for keeping people housed.”
Reetu Mody, a managing attorney in tenants’ rights for Central Legal de la Raza in Oakland, said she consistently gets calls from Contra Costa renters, including undocumented and multilingual families asking for support as they face evictions and who have “habitiability issues with rats, cockroaches and mold.”
“With the end of AB 3088 coming soon, the tenants are terrified and the families have nowhere to go and the children have nowhere to study or take remote classes and people have no way to figure out where to work what to do,” she said. “We know that tenants’ rights representation in the courtroom makes a huge difference.”
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Author: Judith Prieve