The COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses and forced layoffs across the country. Many renters have struggled to find the money for food, much less rent.
At midnight July 16, the statewide eviction ban ended and the Michigan Eviction Diversion Program
The Michigan State Housing Development Authority has allocated $60 million in coronavirus relief funds for the program. MSHDA will disburse the money through grants to local Housing Assessment and Resource Agencies. In Ottawa County, that is Good Samaritan Ministries
Landlords who promise not to evict their tenants can receive up to 90% of their tenants’ back rent in one lump sum. However, they must forgive late fees and up to 10 percent of the back rent.
“It’s a win for everybody. Landlords get paid — and landlords need that income; it’s their business. We avoid overwhelming the court system and, most importantly, we prevent tenants from becoming homeless,” says Good Sam Executive Director Drew Peirce.
Landlords whose tenants are behind due to COVID-19 shutdowns are already empty-handed. The eviction process takes time, so landlords can expect no payments or progress for another month or two. It’s a lot cheaper to keep a tenant than to evict one and replace him or her, Peirce says.
“Part of the beauty of it is it’s bringing tenants, landlords, courts, legal aid together to come to an agreement,” he says.
Good Sam is working with both landlords and tenants to make the program a success. There will be $667,000 available for rental assistance in the county.
Any tenant who has received a court summons or seven-day eviction notice should contact the nonprofit directly right away, he says. The Eviction Diversion Program can keep the incident from the renter’s record and their credit score. Landlords or tenants interested in the program can call 616-392-7159 or visit goodsamministries.com
Renters will receive assistance on an income-based sliding scale and must be at or below the Area Median Income ($83,600 for a family of four).
The average rent in Ottawa County is between $800 and $1,500, depending on the size of the rental, Peirce says. Those at the lowest end of the income scale can receive up to $3,500 to help pay for back rent. Those who own a mobile home but rent the lot are also eligible.
The program will run through the end of the year.
Good Samaritan Ministries typically helps about 20 families per year with homelessness prevention funding and services in addition to its work to house the homeless. Through the emergency program, the nonprofit expects to provide homelessness prevention services to around 300 households in less than six months.
When compared to rehousing, preventing homelessness requires a third of the cost, a third of the time and none of the trauma to families, Peirce says.
“If we can keep people from becoming homeless, think of all the good that we can do,” he says.
Read more stories about efforts to address Ottawa County's housing issues:
Nonprofits join forces to tackle affordable housing shortage in Ottawa County
Foundation’s $1.5 million investment targets creation of workforce housing
How collaboration is growing affordable housing in Ottawa County
One vision for adding affordable housing to downtown Holland
From homeless to helping: Holland leader shares his Habitat story
How volunteering helped turn a homeless man’s life around
Emergency housing programs ‘saved my family,’ mom says
Mission takes extra steps to protect homeless from COVID-19
Being homeless during the COVID-19 crisis