Individuals and families throughout King County economically impacted by COVID-19 due to illness, lost wages and unemployment may apply for assistance through the King County Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program announced Thursday, Aug. 20, by County Executive Dow Constantine.
The new program dedicates $41.4 million for emergency housing aid and is expected to assist 7,700 to 10,000 households across the region.
“Many people are facing serious challenges due to COVID-19 and the loss of health or income, leaving them extremely vulnerable to eviction,” Constantine said in a news release. “This emergency program will forestall the loss of housing and prevent homelessness for thousands of residents in need across King County.”
King County will use several approaches to serve as many households as possible, as quickly as possible. Funding is prioritized for the highest-need areas and individuals in the county. To be eligible for assistance, all tenants must have an income that is at or below 50 percent of the area median income over the past 60 days, and must be partially or fully behind at least one month of rent since March 1, 2020. Tenants must also meet one of several secondary criteria, such as having high rent burden, a history of homelessness or eviction, or a disability.
“Coming into this year, we already had a regional housing crisis with too many King County residents having to spend too much money on housing,” said King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci. “The COVID-19 outbreak turned our long-term housing problem into an immediate emergency. We’ve adopted COVID-related protections for renters at the state and county level, but once those protections run out, thousands of families will suddenly be at risk of losing their homes. This funding will provide critical help to people struggling to remain stable during this once-in-a-century pandemic. I am glad we are doing our part today, while recognizing the need still far outstrips available resources. At King County, we will continue to advocate for support for those struggling financially due to the pandemic.”
The $41.4 million funding for the program comes the King County COVID Relief Fund ($9.8M); federal CARES Act funding awarded to King County from the state Department of Commerce ($28.7M); Community Development Block Grant funding ($1.7M); and funding from the voter-approved Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy ($1.2M).
Eviction prevention and rent assistance program
A new web portal, launched Aug. 20, will solicit interest from individual tenants, large and small property managers and landlords, and mobile home parks. In many cases, recipients of funding will be chosen via a lottery system to ensure more applicants have an opportunity for assistance, rather than funding only those who happen to sign up first.
Applicants may be awarded up to three months of rent. If the tenant is more than three months in arrears, the landlord must agree to waive the additional rent owed, and must also agree not to raise rents, evict the tenant, or refuse to renew a tenancy other than for good cause before March 31, 2021. All landlords must agree to accept 80 percent of the rent or fair market rent, whichever is less, so that public funds can help more households.
Community-based organizations have an opportunity to receive funding under this program to offer outreach and application assistance to potential recipients, and ensure culturally competent, accessible and in-language support to tenants and landlords through the application process.
Large residential property fund ($17.9M)
To reach the largest number of low-income households as quickly as possible, nearly $18 million is dedicated to a fund that is available to larger residential property managers and landlords with multiple residents needing assistance. Efforts will focus on Low Income Tax Credit properties and properties in the zip codes with the highest unemployment and COVID-19 disease burdens.
Individual household/small landlord fund ($10M)
Another fund focuses on assisting any individual household that meets the eligibility requirements. Due to expected high demand, tenant selection will occur via a weekly lottery. Potential recipients will submit a form to enter the lottery process, with the first tenants and landlords drawn on September 14, 2020 and weekly thereafter until all funds are spent. Community-based organizations will assist tenants with the application process, and other nonprofit organizations will provide the actual rental assistance.
Manufactured home park fund ($2M)
Specialized assistance and funding is dedicated to help manufactured home park residents, many of whom are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, including approximately 70 percent Latinx. Similar to the Large Residential Property Fund, non-profit organizations administering the funds will work with park owners to assist households quickly. Community-based organizations will provide residents with language and other assistance, as needed.
Eviction prevention – United Way of King County ($5M)
Funding is allocated to United Way’s Rental Assistance Program to support households through UWKC’s Home Base program when the state-mandated Eviction Moratorium ends in mid-October, unless the moratorium is extended. If extended, the resources will be reallocated to support the other funds.
The remaining funds will support outreach and application assistance efforts, including language and other supports for tenants and landlords to assist in understanding and completing the application process and required documentation. Community-based organizations will be selected to participate in the program t based on their ability to work with households where English is not the primary language; agencies with demonstrated experience working with low-income communities disproportionately impacted by homelessness, evictions, and COVID; and agencies with experience in rural parts of King County. A $1 million reserve fund as required by the state Department of Commerce will be set aside to cover any grievances. Funds will also support administration of the program.
Open public comment period
The region faces a looming eviction crisis of unprecedented scale and for that reason, the county is moving to begin to gather interest in the program immediately. At the same time, the county is seeking feedback to ensure a program that is as effective, equitable, and efficient as possible, King County is seeking comments about the program until 5 p.m. on Aug. 25, at KingCounty.gov/COVID/rent. While King County will begin accepting online interest forms during this feedback period, no funds from this program will be awarded until after the comment period closes and county staff have had an opportunity to incorporate any changes that the comments warrant.
The web portal is open for public comment and to collect interest forms. Selection of funding partners, contract development and agency training begins the week of Aug. 24. Client services begin Sept. 1. The first lottery pull will be Sept. 14 and weekly thereafter until the fund is expended. All funds must be spent by Dec. 30.
The median family income for the region is $113,000 per year, based on the 2020 HUD Income Limits for the Seattle-Bellevue area, according to county staff.
The county will use thresholds based on household size at these annual income levels, applied to the most recent 60 days.
Persons in family: 50% income limit of median income