Local and state-issued CARES funding aims to help curb eviction problem

Jordan Meier

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Many people across the country have been holding their breath the last few months as they wait for the fateful notice that they are being evicted.

COVID-19 has caused millions of people to lose their jobs and left them unable to pay rent, leaving their homes in limbo. There has been a national eviction freeze, effective through the end of the year, but states and cities are still taking broad steps to make sure their citizens are protected. Kansas and the City of Pittsburg are in that bunch.

On Thursday, the Pittsburg Public Housing Authority announced a new program to hopefully create more Section 8 Rental Assistance properties within the city and reduce evictions during these turbulent times.

The program, called the Landlord Incentive Program, is funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and will give non-participating landlords a reason to make some of their properties Section 8 housing.

Quentin Holmes, director of community development and housing for the City of Pittsburg, said the reason many landlords don’t participate is because of the repairs they have to do after being inspected.

“A property can fail the inspection for really small things like an outlet cover or lightbulbs missing,” he said. “But once a landlord hears about the cost of repairs, they get turned off.”

The Landlord Incentive Program will help pay for those necessary repairs up to $1,000 per unit.

 “To be eligible to submit a reimbursement claim for repairs, a landlord must be currently participating in or willing to participate in the Section 8 Rental Assistance program, the unit must be leased to an approved tenant, and the landlord must continue to allow placement of the tenant in the same unit,” a press release from the City of Pittsburg said. “Landlords must provide a building permit and proof of inspections of work performed by a licensed contractor. The landlord must also agree to participate in the Section 8 Rental Assistance program for one full year.”

Holmes said in addition to wanting to help create more Section 8 housing in the city, he also hopes this new program will help minimize the oncoming “eviction cliff.”

 “After this eviction freeze ends, you’re going to have a lot of evictions happening all at once that have been put off,” he said. “Hopefully this will help that.”

He said while a major goal of the department, outside of COVID-19, has been to create more Section 8 housing, which currently helps 335 homes, this incentive program will likely not be able to continue after the CARES funding runs out.

“It’ll likely be a one and done deal,” he said.

The State of Kansas has also pledged funding to help stop evictions during this time, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Wednesday.

In a press release, Kelly said that approximately $35 million of the state’s CARES funding will be going to the Eviction Protection Program which was created to prevent evictions from happening across the state.

 “Keeping Kansans in their homes and businesses has been a top priority for my administration since the pandemic began,” Kelly said in the release. “Through this program, we will provide support to tenants and landlords experiencing pandemic-related financial stress, ensure families and businesses stay put, and keep Kansans safe and healthy.”

The program is being administered through the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation and will help landlords and tenants alike with a “maximum of nine months of assistance, not to exceed $5,000 per household”.

“As more Kansans are doing online learning and teleworking, being able to stay in your home has never been more important,” KHRC Executive Director Ryan Vincent said in the release. “I want to thank Governor Kelly, the SPARK taskforce, and legislators for providing this much-needed support to Kansas families.”

 Those in need of the assistance should apply online as funds are limited and applications will only be processed until the funds run out.