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City of Tallahassee landlord, tenant program to expand to help formerly incarcerated people

Posted at 8:31 PM, Sep 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 20:31:17-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The City of Tallahassee is now strengthening the program focused on helping renters and their landlords during the pandemic.

City of Tallahassee Director of Housing & Community Resilience Abena Ojetayo says the Landlord Risk Mitigation Fund is one answer to addressing homelessness in the city.

"We need to make sure that there are housing options available for everyone, and we know that some landlords, particularly smaller property owners, are in a position and desire to help, " she said.

In January, the city approved $250,00 for the program. The money from the city is designed to incentivize landlords for renting to people financially impacted by COVID-19, previously homeless, or facing eviction. The landlord in turn gets a $500 one-time bonus for each unit newly leased and up to $2,000 to cover late rent.

"We know that that's a red mark on their record and it makes it hard for them to get places so there's the risk of homelessness if they're not able to secure housing," said Ojetayo.

City Commissioners will approve an extra $100,00 from Leon County Wednesday. The money comes from their Public Safety Coordinating Council. The expansion of the program will increase accessibility to affordable housing for individuals returning to the community from incarceration, which is proven to reduce recidivism and enhance public safety.

"We do have clients that are leaving from incarceration and they have nowhere to go, and so they do enter the homelessness system, and they are considered effectively homeless and so we might have caught them in that pipeline," said Ojetayo.

There are 52 apartments and 18 landlords involved in the program, six of those apartments are currently empty. Christopher Daniels is one of the landlords involved in the program.

"The first woman I moved into my apartment, she was a had been homeless during COVID. She was scraping by, dollar to dollar, you know. Hotel to hotel rooms night by night, so you know, to get her and her daughter, out of that situation into a home is a great thing you know, and you know this program definitely helped make that possible,” said Daniels.

With the eviction moratorium recently ending, more people could be looking to the program. 118 people were evicted in August in Leon County. While not all were pandemic related, evictions are ticking up compared to last year. Evictions are up 9% compared to October 2019 to August of 2020, which the county counts as its fiscal year. From October 2020 to August 2021 there were1,956 evictions.

While the program began as an answer to the pandemic, they're now looking towards more longevity for the future.

"A program where a landlord will participate for the long haul; where they're making a commitment to support housing stability beyond just this pandemic," said Ojetayo.