Q. What is HousingCLT?
A. HousingCLT is a community-based collaboration among landlords/property managers, human services agencies, and the housingCLT staff to provide housing opportunities for people who are homeless and have barriers to securing safe, permanent, and affordable housing.
Q. Why is HousingCLT needed?
A. In Charlotte-Mecklenburg there are simply not enough affordable housing units available to individuals and families suffering from homelessness. According to research conducted by UNC-Charlotte’s Urban Institute and Metropolitan Studies, it would take 16,000 affordable rental units to prevent and end homelessness in Charlotte. This particular affordable housing shortage reflects a larger community issue: a need in Charlotte-Mecklenburg for more than 34,000 housing units available and affordable to individuals and families at or below 50% of area median income, according to data from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It’s impossible to scale up construction of new units fast enough to meet the demand, so HousingCLT works to make use of existing resources in the city – housing units that may otherwise be vacant.
Q. What exactly am I being asked to do?
A. HousingCLT asks landlords/property managers to relax some of their eligibility criteria to make housing available to individuals and families who are homeless. Landlords and property managers still have discretion to approve each applicant individually based on criteria from this list, mutually agreed on at the outset of our partnership agreement.
Q. If I decide to work with you and use alternate screening criteria for people referred by HousingCLT, will that cause problems under the Fair Housing Act?
A. HousingCLT has been created using models successfully implemented in other cities, all of which have examined this concern thoroughly.
The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in the provision of housing, but also goes further and creates an affirmative duty for housing providers to accommodate persons with disabilities.
Fair Housing laws allow the use of alternative criteria to enable applicants to establish eligibility. Many HousingCLT referral tenants will have disabling conditions and need “reasonable accommodation.” A reasonable accommodation is a change to a rule, policy, practice, or service when necessary to allow a disabled person equal access to housing. So, with applicants referred under HousingCLT, the housing provider may use alternative screening criteria instead of strict, standardized criteria used for other applicants.
If you are a Partner Provider, you are affirmatively promoting fair housing standards by removing housing barriers for homeless individuals and families and expanding housing opportunities for members of protected classes, which are disproportionately represented in the homeless population.
A national campaign known as 100,000 Homes obtained a thorough legal opinion on the use of alternate screening criteria, available here <http://100khomes.org/resources/legal-opinion-prioritization-and-fair-housing-law>.
Fair housing compliance requires consistency. The key to consistency is to require all prospective residents referred by a HousingCLT Participating Agency to establish eligibility for housing by verifying that they can and will:
- Pay rent and other charges on time;
- Care for the property;
- Comply with all lease provisions; and
- Be good tenants and good neighbors.
For additional information, please see this information from the Corporation for Supportive Housing:
Q. How will people referred by HousingCLT Participating Agencies pay their rent?
A. It depends. A variety of sources are available to assist people with limited income. Some of these sources are able to provide rent assistance for up to 2 years. There will be some Housing Choice Vouchers (also known as Section 8) or Veterans Administration Supportive Housing Vouchers (VASH) available for individuals and families meeting the criteria for those programs. These programs have no time limits (but annual recertification is required). Some people who will be referred through the HousingCLT project are working towards self-sufficiency and may be able to be completely self-paying tenants within a year or two.
If you are not yet a Section 8 landlord but are interested in becoming one, please contact Gwen Isley in the Charlotte Housing Authority Rental Assistance Office at (704) 353-1694, firstname.lastname@example.org. Basic information and FAQs may be found here http://cha-nc.org/business/landlords and here http://cha-nc.org/faqs.
In addition to the various rental assistance programs, HousingCLT is also seeking landlords who are willing to donate units at a reduced rent.
Q. What happens if I have problems with a new resident who is referred under the HousingCLT project?
A. HousingCLT social services partners are committed to providing ongoing supportive services to people directly referred to you under the HousingCLT project. Most people will have a designated case manager – a social worker who has committed to providing needed services and working with you to ensure people remain in stable housing.
The HousingCLT project works only with social service providers who have committed to provide supportive services for at least one year after placement, are available to respond to after-hours concerns (or by no later than the next business day after concerns arise), and make in-home visits at least once each month. You will have the case manager’s contact information. He/she will check in with you weekly during the first year of a HousingCLT tenant referral and at least monthly after the first six months of tenancy.
HousingCLT provides “Community Builder” training to potential tenants. This certification ensures they are informed of their responsibilities as tenants and know what steps to take to avoid common landlord/tenant problems.
Q. How long will these folks be housed in one of my units?
A. They’re tenants until they choose to move. Please treat them as you would any other renter. However, we do ask that you contact us about any incidents or observations that will help us support your tenant better. We want you to be a landlord and your resident to be the best possible renter for you.
Q. What’s in it for my business?
A. First, by becoming a HousingCLT partner you are part of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s solution to the complex issue of homelessness. You might also be saving a life: extended periods of homelessness can result in more rapid onset or worsening of chronic health conditions. People experiencing homelessness are more likely to be victims of violent crime. Once housed, people who have experienced homelessness use hospital emergency rooms and other public resources far less frequently, so you help reduce the community’s costs related to homelessness, too.
HousingCLT Participating Agencies will help to fill vacant rental units with tenants who are motivated to succeed.
HousingCLT referral tenants will pay regular security deposits. Their social service providers will also work with HousingCLT referral tenants to make sure rent and utilities are paid on time.
Landlord/property managers who participate in the HousingCLT program will have access to the HousingCLT Risk Mitigation Fund, a resource to provide reimbursements for costs incurred by landlords/property managers if HousingCLT referred tenants cause actual damage beyond what’s considered “normal wear and tear” to housing units or must be evicted for cause. The HousingCLT Risk Mitigation Fund may help recover costs that exceed the on-hand deposit amount.
If a HousingCLT referral comes to you with a Housing Choice Voucher or other housing subsidy, you are assured of timely rent payments each month.
HousingCLT urges landlords and property managers to consult with their legal and accounting teams to determine if there are other benefits that may accrue as a result of participation in the HousingCLT program.