Q. What is HousingCLT?
A. HousingCLT is a community collaboration among rental property owners and professional property managers and homeless services agencies to provide housing for people experiencing homeless with significant barriers to securing safe, permanent, and affordable housing. This model has been successful in housing more than 10,000 people in Seattle, Nashville, and Atlanta over the last eight years.
HousingCLT connects social services agencies that need safe, affordable housing options for their homeless clients to private sector property owners and managers who have available housing units.
Q. Why is this 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 reflects an overall growing community need: data from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development indicates a need in Charlotte-Mecklenburg for more than 34,000 housing units available to individuals and families at or below 50% of area median income. 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 property owners/property managers to relax some of their eligibility criteria to make housing available to individuals and families who are homeless. A list of recommended alternate screening criteria is available here:
Landlords and property managers still have the 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. Property owners and managers are asked to use self-selected, alternative screening criteria to evaluate applications from individuals and families referred through HousingCLT. Since statistics show that people with disabilities are overrepresented in the homeless population it may be necessary, as a reasonable accommodation, to assess the qualifications of a homeless applicant with a disability and a criminal record differently than one might assess someone with a criminal record who does not have a disability.
Housing providers and social service agencies collaborating under the HousingCLT project are affirmatively promoting fair housing standards by removing housing barriers for homeless individuals and families and expanding housing opportunities for members of protected classes who will likely not have access to any housing options at all.
A national campaign known as 100,000 Homes obtained a thorough legal opinion on the use of alternate screening criteria, available here: http://howsnashville.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2011.02.08-Opinion-Letter-w.-Attachments.pdf
The City of Charlotte’s Community Relations Office has also provided this opinion regarding HousingCLT’s program structure’s compliance with Charlotte’s local Fair Housing ordinance.
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 on time
- Care for the property
- Be good neighbors
Q. How will people referred by HousingCLT Participating Agencies pay their rent?
A. It depends. Most all of them will be responsible for paying some portion of their rent. A variety of sources are available to assist people with limited income to pay the balance of monthly rent obligations. Some of these sources are able to provide rent assistance for up to 2 years. There are 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. If you would like to be part of the solution to homelessness and give back to the community by providing housing for a vulnerable person who has experienced long-term homelessness, please contact Harry Mack at email@example.com.
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 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 are tenants until they choose to move. Please treat them as you would any other renter. Some will experience a period of adjustment just as any person who transitions in to a new community and environment. 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 successful HousingCLT supporter and your residents to be the best possible tenants.
Q. What’s in it for me and my business?
A. First, by becoming a HousingCLT partner you are part of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s solution to the complex issue of homelessness. It’s not an overstatement to say that you may be saving someone’s life by providing a housing unit. People experiencing homelessness have a higher incidence of chronic health concerns, die earlier, and are more likely to be victims of violence. Housing solves their most emergent need.
HousingCLT referral tenants will pay security deposits. Their social service providers will also ensure HousingCLT tenants’ rent and utilities are paid on time.
Housing placements through HousingCLT have:
- Rental assistance through a variety of programs – HOME TBRA (Tenant Based Rental Assistance), Rapid Re-Housing, and HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS), as well as Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8);
- Ongoing social services support;
- A designated contact at the referring agency for property owners and managers to call if concerns arise, with response provided in 1 business day;
- Access to risk mitigation funding if a referral client damages the housing unit.
Advantages of being a HousingCLT housing provider:
- Consistent cash flow on units made available to HousingCLT referrals;
- Offsets to costs from frequent tenant turnover and collection loss;
- Revenue on units that are part of your naturally occurring vacancy rate for which you would typically not have any income;
- Reductions in downtime between leases;
- Access to funding for tenant-caused damage.
HousingCLT strongly urges landlords and property managers to consult with their legal and accounting staff to determine if there are other benefits that may accrue as a result of participation in the HousingCLT program.
Q. How do I get started?
A. You may download the HousingCLT Housing Provider Memorandum of Understanding here:
After you have read it, please contact Harry Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a meeting to discuss how referrals occur and how social services providers work with you to set up rental payment arrangements, inspections, and other programmatic functions. Once the Memorandum of Understand has been executed, you will promptly begin receiving referrals. All referrals are initially vetted by HousingCLT staff for eligibility and appropriateness for your particular properties before we contact you to inform you to expect an application from an approved referral client.