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Evading Eviction: Detroit urges state to process rental assistance applications faster

Posted at 11:06 AM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 17:43:19-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — On Tuesday, the Detroit City Council passed a resolution urging the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) to process rental assistance applications faster. Their goal: to keep residents in their homes.

According to Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield, the 36th District Court has seen a high amount of eviction cases since the end of the eviction moratorium.

Judge William C. McConico told the committee that part of the issue is the processing of COVID Emergency Rental Assistance applications, otherwise known as CERA.

CERA was launched in March of 2021 to help struggling tenants pay rent.

Home renters would apply for CERA to receive financial assistance. MSHDA would then process those applications.

“The concern is that individuals and families are being evicted when we have relief and we have resources that are available for families to stay in their homes,” Sheffield said.

In a statement, MSHDA told 7 Action News that they have provided nearly $280 million ($277.8 million) in emergency rental assistance funds to Detroit grantees.

Of the state's 233,000 total applications, 45,400 have been submitted from Detroit. That's over 19%.

The current wait time to process applications and send financial help is about 90 days in Wayne County. Wait times in other counties in the state is about 39 days.

MSHDA says three agencies are currently processing applications in Wayne County.

In early 2022, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan was added to the mix to help speed up the process.

“We support anything that can move the process along a little quicker,” Doug Marcum, board member of the Detroit Metropolitan Apartment Association said.

Marcum is a landlord in Detroit. He says he's been seeing CERA applications get approved, but payments not going out.

"And I’m talking three, four months,” Marcum said. “A lot of the agencies that are facilitating these applications and subsequent funds appear to be potentially overwhelmed with the number of applications that are coming in, maybe undermanned.”

Marcum says landlords often help tenants fill out CERA applications.

“Whether they don’t have internet access, maybe they don’t understand the process, might be a senior citizen. We work hand in hand with them. We bring them into the office, allow them to complete the application on one of our computers,” Marcum said.

In addition to the data, MSHDA provided this response to the city council’s resolution:

“MSHDA shares the sense of urgency reflected in the resolution. We have communicated with our Detroit grantee, their sub-grantees and City of Detroit staff about the need to increase capacity within their system and process applications faster. We have added dedicated program support specifically for Detroit grantees in an effort to expedite processing.”

For more information on CERA, go here.