March 28, 2022

Since early in the pandemic, PHA staff have worked diligently to assist residents who were struggling to pay rent.  Staff began helping residents apply for emergency rental assistance as soon as the State’s RentHelpMN program and the County’s Zero Balance Project began accepting applications.  To date, staff have collectively spent nearly 4,000 hours helping 665 residents apply for assistance to avoid eviction.  These efforts have paid off, with the PHA receiving an additional $168,808 in emergency rental assistance payments in the last month, for a total of $2,355,816 received as of March 15, 2022. 

Total Assistance Payments

$2,355,816

RentHelpMN Payments

$2,154,379

Zero Balance Project Payments

$201,437

Applications Submitted

665

Accounts Receiving Payments

603

 

No new applications were submitted in the past month because neither RentHelpMN nor the Zero Balance Project accepted applications after the end of January.  As of March 10, 2022, RentHelpMN had paid more than $413.9 million in rental assistance out of the $450 million in funding received.  Without a new infusion of federal or state funds, they will exhaust their funding very soon, however the Minnesota Legislature is considering putting an additional $330 million in federal recovery money towards emergency rental assistance in order to continue providing assistance payments through June 30, 2022. 

While the substantial amount of rental assistance the PHA has received has reduced the number of households owing rent and/or sales and service fees, the total amount of delinquent rent owed has increased compared to last month.  This continues to be driven by the substantial number of newly delinquent households.  In the last month, 299 households that had been delinquent paid their balance and 6 households vacated; however 251 newly delinquent households were added.  This resulted in a net decrease of 54 households owing delinquent rent, but an increase of $53,228 in total delinquent rent owed, as shown below.

 

Feb-22

Mar-22

Change

Total Delinquent Rent Owed

$698,169

$751,397

$53,228

Total Households Owing

671

617

(54)

Sales and Service Fees

$57,499

$55,200

($2,299)

 

While staff hope that both the delinquent rent owed and the number of households owing rent continue to trend downward, it is difficult to predict what will happen when a substantial number of new households become delinquent each month, and as emergency rental assistance funds are exhausted. 

Resident Services staff continue to contact residents with delinquent accounts to remind them that they are responsible for the amounts owed, and to meet with residents to assist them in seeking alternate emergency funds to cover unpaid rent.  Staff have made an average of seven attempts to contact each household that was delinquent on rent payments.  While the PHA’s goal is to obtain payment and promote successful tenancies, staff have sent 30-day notices of lease termination for late rent to over 2,200 households since October 12, 2021.  Unfortunately, the PHA cannot waive any rent due to it.  According to HUD, "PHAs are not permitted to directly pay tenant’s rent or to offer debt forgiveness programs with CARES Act funds, public housing Operating or Capital Funds or HCV funds."  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. 

PHA staff filed 32 Eviction Actions for unpaid rent in December 2021, and as of March 28, 2022 staff had not filed any additional Eviction Actions for unpaid rent.  Out of the 32 Eviction Actions filed, most households have either paid their balance or are continuing to cooperate with PHA staff in order to do so.  The PHA obtained writs of recovery in only five of the 32 cases.  Most evictions are permissible now, but renters who are eligible and have applied for State or County payments will continue to be protected against evictions until June 1, 2022.  The PHA Legal Team, Resident Services and Finance Department staff continue to coordinate in order to identify residents who have not responded to previous notices, and to prepare to file additional Eviction Action proceedings in Ramsey County Housing Court when necessary.  PHA staff 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 with very low incomes. 

Respectfully,

Jon Gutzmann
 

 

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