More than 26,000 Arizona tenants are asking for help paying their rent from a $5 million state fund for people hurt by COVID-19 that launched last March.
The average aid requested is about $890, according to the Arizona Department of Housing. The money goes directly to landlords.
Metro Phoenix led the nation for rent increases during the past few years. The median rent in the Valley reached $1,100 in March, according to Apartment List. Rents are lower in other Arizona cities, except Flagstaff.
The state housing agency is working with local eviction-prevention agencies across Arizona to administer the renter funds.
A tally on how much of the $5 million has been spent on rents so far isn’t yet available because the applications take steps to process, including contacting landlords and verifying payment methods they accept, according to the ADOH.
“The Community Action Agencies (the local eviction-prevention organizations) are intent on delivering these resources as quickly as possible, and applications approved by those agencies will receive funding,” said Janelle Johnsen, spokeswoman for the state housing agency.
How to get rent help
To receive rent help from the $5 million fund, tenants must:
- Live in an Arizona rental unit as their primary residence.
- Have seen a reduction in income due to COVID-19, that when annualized, does not exceed 100% of the area median income adjusted for family size for the county in which they reside.
“This assistance will provide some measure of relief for many renters, as well as their landlords, during this unprecedented situation that led to an abrupt loss of income,” said Carole Ditmore, director of ADOH.
The launch of the renter-aid fund came days after Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order to delay evictions for people either quarantined or facing economic hardships due to COVID-19
Gov Doug Ducey announced on March 25 his executive order to delay evictions for those who are suffering from COVID-19. Arizona Republic
Renter eviction filings in the Valley dipped slightly to 518 during the last week of March, compared to 526 for the same week a year ago, according to the Maricopa County Justice Courts.
It won’t be clear if the executive order is slowing evictions until mid-April court filings are available later this month.
Since rent is typically due during the first few days of the month, and landlords have to give a five-day notice before they can file for an eviction, the bulk of filings happen in the second and third week of any month, said Scott Davis, spokesman for the Maricopa County Justice Courts.
During the third week of March, before Ducey’s executive order, there were 1,896 eviction filings in metro Phoenix. That was up from 1,812 during the same week in March 2019.
Help for renters facing eviction
To avoid eviction under Ducey’s executive order, tenants must contact their landlord and provide information that they are missing rent for one of the following reasons:
- Required to be quarantined because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Ordered by a licensed medical professional to self-quarantine based on symptoms defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Required to be quarantined because someone in their home has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Demonstrate a health condition that puts them at risk for coronavirus, according to the CDC.
- Suffered a substantial loss of income resulting from COVID-19 due to any of these reasons: job loss, reduction in compensation, closure of place of employment or a need to be absent from work to care for a home-bound school-age child.
Community Legal Services has forms to help renters with their requests to avoid eviction.
Section 8 renters can’t be evicted
Lower-income renters with federally subsidized housing, including the Section 8 program, can’t be evicted now under provisions in the federal CARES Act.
Pamela Bridge, director of Advocacy and Litigation at Community Legal Services, said that needs better communicated to landlords.
“This impacts thousands of tenants in Arizona,” Bridge said. “We need to get the word out because we are aware of many landlords in Maricopa County filing eviction cases regardless of the federal act.”
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