New Eviction Fund and Tracker Announced at Housing Forum
By George Burgan, ANDP
Prior to the onset of the pandemic, spiking rental rates had become an increasingly insurmountable obstacle for low-income families. In the last decade, rents in our region have increased by 65%, compared to a national average increase of 36%. Nearly half of all households in the City of Atlanta and nearly one in three households in the region are housing cost-burdened. Making matters worse, unemployment levels have soared, placing as many as 28 million families nationally in immediate jeopardy of eviction.
After a brief period of moratoriums, Federal, state and local protections for vulnerable residents impacted by the COVID pandemic have expired and courts are beginning to resume eviction proceedings. As of late July, 182,000 households in Georgia were unable to pay rent and are at risk of eviction. The same data suggest that Black and Hispanic communities will be disproportionately affected.
Philanthropic organizations and corporations in metro Atlanta were quick to establish funding to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, including rental relief measures. But the problem will soon far outpace any current funding.
The September 2 Atlanta Regional Housing Forum welcomed nine presenters to discuss all aspects of the eviction crisis.
EVICTION PREVENTION FUND
Housing Forum moderator and founder Bill Bolling welcomed Jack Hardin, co-chair of the Metro Atlanta Regional Council on Homelessness and Doug Hooker, executive director of Atlanta Regional Commission to announce the formation of “Save Our Atlanta Residents” (SOAR) an equity fund for eviction prevention.
“SOAR is a regional initiative based upon the belief that the entire community is better off if people are able to stay in their homes through this crisis. The goal is to keep people in their homes through the economic consequences of this pandemic – pursuing a shared pain strategy, so everyone – landlords, tenants, government and philanthropy – will have some skin in the game,” said Hardin.
Hooker added that the formation of the fund is underway but implored everyone to help play a role. “We have an opportunity to take one the most inequitable cities and reshape it into one that cares about its neighbors. One that rises to the occasion and faces inequality head on.”
Hooker and Hardin both stressed that the fund was not intended to replace the much needed deployment of existing government funds and other philanthropic efforts.
For more information, to learn how you can get engaged, or to discuss making a contribution to SOAR, the regional eviction-prevention strategy led by Atlanta Regional Commission, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, United Way of Greater Atlanta, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, please contact Alex Dileo at Coxe Curry & Associates at [email protected].
Sarah Stein, a research advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, unveiled a new eviction data collective – a joint effort between her organization, Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia Tech. The group has produced an eviction tracking tool that documents active eviction filings in metro Atlanta magistrate courts. The Atlanta Region Eviction Tracker, hosted at Atlanta Regional Commission’s Metro Atlanta Housing Strategy website, currently includes the five core metro counties. The collaborative encourages other metro counties to participate in the project and share their filing data.
FORUM VOICES ON EVICTIONS
The 90-minute Housing Forum provided attendees with a number of viewpoints from various entities concerned about the issues:
- Liz Osborn of Enterprise Community Partners provided an overview of actions in Washington to generate another relief package, as well as best practices around the nation in deploying CARES Act funding.
- Fulton County’s Chief Magistrate Judge Cassandra Kirk provided a deep dive in the operations of Fulton County’s Magistrate Court.
- The Forum also heard passionate pleas from Protip Biswas of United Way of Greater Atlanta and Michael Lucas of Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation on ways to improve the infrastructure for securing and deploying relief funds.
- Stephen Davis of the Atlanta Apartment Association shared the impact of the pandemic on association members who provide affordable units, and their efforts to minimize the impact of the crisis.
- Lejla Prljaca of Lawrenceville Housing Authority spoke about an efficient community collaborative, “Lawrenceville Response Center” that leveraged resources from public, private, the faith communities and others to provide assistance to the most vulnerable – especially those living in extended stay hotels.
Watch all presentations on evictions here.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
With more than 40% of Georgia renters at risk of eviction, including tens of thousands in metro Atlanta, we all have a role to play in responding to the crisis. Here are a few tips from Forum presenters.
- Think another pandemic stimulus/aid package is needed? Now is the time to call your members of Congress – especially those on Appropriations, Senate Banking, and House Financial Services committees. Find your House or Senate contact info.
- Contact your local government offices and ask them to participate in the Atlanta Region Eviction Tracker website. A collaborative effort of Atlanta Fed, ARC and Georgia Tech.
- Contact your local government and ask them to consider prioritizing and deploying CARES ACT funding for eviction prevention.
- Encourage and participate in private/public collaborations to address the eviction and housing stability crisis caused by the pandemic. See slide 20 for an overview of how Lawrenceville, GA pulled together as a community very quickly to help vulnerable populations.
- Give personally to a relief fund. Contact Alex Dileo to learn how you can support the new SOAR fund ([email protected]). Support the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response & Recovery Fund or other efforts.
- If possible encourage your company, organization, or philanthropic entity to financially support the above listed eviction prevention efforts – or other efforts in your local community.
MORE INFORMATION FROM THE HOUSING FORUM
Eviction Tracker Website (Atlanta Fed, ARC, & Georgia Tech)