Thurston County opted to add one condition to the $2.6 million of rent assistance currently being distributed as part of the state Department of Commerce’s Eviction Rent Assistance Program (ERAP).
Landlords who accept money under the program will not be allowed to raise rent until Jan. 1, unless it was previously agreed upon.
The ERAP program provides up to three months of rent paid directly to landlords at 80 percent of the total value or fair market rent, whichever is less.
On Tuesday, county commissioners and staff discussed whether to attach additional conditions to landlords who accept money as part of the program, as King County elected to do a few weeks ago.
King County’s program requires that landlords who accept money under the program agree not to raise rent, terminate the tenant’s lease, or refuse to renew the tenant’s lease until March 31, 2020. It also requires landlords who accept three month’s worth of rent assistance to forgive any tenant debt beyond those three months. Thurston County leaders opted to pursue one of those protections: the requirement not to raise rent.
All three commissioners agreed with the recommendation of staff and County Manager Ramiro Chavez that the “guardrails” added by King County — the requirements not to evict until March 2021, and to forgive tenant debt beyond three months — were too onerous for landlords and may lead them not to accept the money.
“Our concern is that that would lead to landlords not participating in this program, which could ultimately result in more evictions,” said Tom Webster, housing program manager for Thurston County.
Evictions already are banned until Oct. 15 in Washington state under Gov. Inslee’s moratorium. The ERAP programs allows counties to attach additional conditions to landlords who accept the money.
“I don’t like to be completely in line with King County,” Commissioner Hutchings said.
How to apply?
Applications for the rental assistance program, which launched on Aug. 24, are being accepted over the phone through Community Action Council. You can make an appointment by calling 360-438-1100, then pressing 8 for Housing and then 7 for ERAP.
More than 150 people had made appointments to apply as of last week.