March 24, 2023


The PHA has collected an average of 99.4% of all rent charged for the last 35 years.  Said another way, approximately 99% of the 4,273 households living in St. Paul’s public housing units pay rent fully and on-time.  The PHA’s mission is to help families and individuals with low incomes achieve greater stability and self-reliance by providing safe, affordable, quality housing and links to community services.  We work hard to help achieve successful tenancies for the 10,000 people who call PHA-owned housing their home.

When COVID hit many households struggled to pay rent.  The amount of delinquent rent owed the PHA reached $1,056,058 in October of 2021.  (The 35 year average of uncollected rents is $69,521 per year.)  

In February 2021 we began issuing monthly reports on staff’s efforts to assist residents meet their financial obligations to the PHA.  PHA staff worked diligently throughout the pandemic to assist residents who were struggling to pay rent, helping over 700 residents apply for assistance to avoid eviction.  Some 30 PHA staff spent a combined 4,000 hours helping residents apply for assistance from the State’s “RentHelpMN” program and Ramsey County’s “Zero Balance Project.”   Let me say that again, over four thousand hours of staff time were spent to help residents remain safely and affordably housed!  This resulted in the PHA receiving a total of $3,075,834 in rental assistance for affected residents.

On March 22, 2023 we reported on the latest “rent recovery” activity.  The current delinquent rent owed the PHA is $366,902.  March marked the seventh consecutive month that the delinquent rent balance has decreased, and the lowest delinquent rent balance the PHA has seen since November 2020.

Importantly, the PHA cannot waive any rent due to it.  HUD has stated that rent is still due during the COVID-19 pandemic and will accumulate if unpaid, and that no PHA-sponsored debt forgiveness or amnesty programs are authorized. 

All COVID emergency rental assistance providers stopped accepting applications months ago and stopped issuing funds in November 2022, so staff attribute the ongoing decrease in the delinquent rent owed to an increase in tenant payments resulting from the uptick in lease enforcement actions.  Staff are cautiously optimistic that the total delinquent rent owed will continue to trend downward.

While the PHA’s goal is to obtain payment and promote successful tenancies, staff have increased lease enforcement activities in order to reduce the large delinquent rent balance.  As of March 14, 2023 the PHA has filed a total of 175 evictions for unpaid rent filed since November 2021.  These 175 eviction actions filed have resulted in 46 evictions so far.  The remaining cases are either still pending or were resolved without the need for an eviction.  In October 2022 Ramsey County Housing Court administrators announced special court dates for eviction actions that have since been extended through July 2023.  These court dates were established in order to eliminate the backlog of evictions and reduce the wait time between filing and the first court appearance, with roughly 200 cases set on each date.  Court administrators continue to evaluate the need for these special events and will add additional dates as needed. 

Staff will continue to work diligently to avoid evictions, while upholding the Agency’s fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers who provide deep subsidies that make PHA-owned housing affordable to families and seniors with very low incomes.                                                                                              

The PHA works closely with its attorneys in this process and as explained by Assistant City Attorney John Stechmann, “filing an eviction action is the beginning of a process.  Just because one is filed, does not mean that a resident will be evicted.  It means that the dialogue will begin with the assistance of the courts.”

Respectfully,

Jon Gutzmann
 

 

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