Arizona Department of Housing to introduce a limited pilot program focusing on eviction prevention
Later this year, the Arizona Department of Housing plans to introduce a pilot program focusing on eviction prevention. The pilot service area will be limited in that it is set to target specific areas of the state where the courts are processing the highest number of evictions. Help will be targeted to the cities of Apache Junction, Bullhead City, Casa Grande, Kingman, Prescott, Tucson, Verde Valley, and Yuma, as well as the areas served by the Country Meadows and Manistee Justice Courts, which serves portions of Avondale and Glendale. If such assistance can show a demonstrable impact on averting evictions in the identified areas, the State may weigh the benefits of seeking additional funding to expand the program on a larger scale.
Statistics show that most renters who are evicted owe their landlord less than $1,000 in late payments, but once a renter of limited means owes more than a few hundred dollars, it is nearly impossible for them to dig themselves out and continue to keep up with their monthly rent. The unfortunate outcome is once a renter has experienced an eviction, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to re-establish themselves as a credible renter so that they experience extreme difficulty in finding another landlord who will rent to them. Besides exacerbating their original money problems, it negatively effects their credit and ability to rent decent housing for years to come. It significantly raises the odds of that household experiencing some period of homelessness, thereby becoming a burden on family, friends, and sometimes, requiring significant public assistance. We know that there is a lot less cost burden on public resources if you can prevent someone from falling into homelessness by preventing an eviction, rather than trying to move someone from homelessness back into housing.
Financial assistance through the pilot will be limited to low-income renters who require one-time assistance that can reasonably be expected to meet their rent responsibilities with no assistance moving forward. In other words, the Department is not proposing an ongoing rental assistance program, or to assist unemployed renters, but to provide funding to households where a small amount of one-time assistance will prevent an eviction. The program would also include short-term tracking of the assisted renter to ensure that assistance corrected the problem and did not just delay an inevitable eviction.
It should be noted that not all eviction assistance will entail providing financial assistance to avert an eviction. Housing counselors may also contact landlords to help avoid evictions through a negotiation process, such as mutual rescission of a lease so that the renter has time to move to a more affordable unit. Some renters may only require housing counseling services to identify other options or referrals to free legal assistance if a counselor identifies a possible violation of fair housing or the Arizona Landlord Tenant Act.
Once the program launches, information on how to access assistance in the target areas will be made available in an announcement through the Department’s website.