As of July, less than 20% of rental assistance distributed in Michigan

Posted at 10:21 PM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 22:29:29-04

(WXYZ) — The Supreme Court has overruled the recent extension of an eviction moratorium. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Policy Survey, that means 3.5 million people could end up on the street.

To prevent this, lawmakers approved $46.5 billion in total rental assistance, with $25 billion being distributed right now. However according to data released this week from the Treasury Department, just 11% of that money has been distributed to landlords as of July.

In that release, the Treasury Department also put out new guidance to state and local organizations hoping to get the money out faster, saying these agencies "need to to do more to urgently accelerate efforts to prevent harmful evictions.” The guidance would allow for less documentation to help those local organizations process applications faster.

"I'm just at the end right now, because I’ve got bills to pay,” said Detroit landlord George Paige.

Paige has gone months without collecting rent, and says he’s still owed more than $20,000 by a handful of renters who aren’t paying.

“It's a depressing situation, especially because I've got one tenant who has four children," Paige said. "I'm definitely sympathetic to anybody who has an issue because of the pandemic, but I can only go so far.”

Those renters will now be facing eviction, something Paige says shouldn’t happen because he and his tenants have all applied for rental assistance. He says he applied months ago, and is still waiting.

“I talked to several landlords in Detroit and they have not received a dime," Paige said.

Roughly $660 million was allocated to Michigan by the federal government to help renters pay rent during the pandemic. According to new data from the Treasury Department, less than 20% of that money was distributed by July.

“You have all this money sitting here, everybody knows the money is sitting there and you’re not doing anything,” Paige said.

“We've definitely had a great urgency with the program, but it dials it up even more knowing that there’s the possibility that more people can be evicted,” said Kelly Rose, Chief Housing Solutions Officer for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).

MSHDA is in charge of distributing the money in Michigan and right now has a backlog of roughly 40,000 thousand applications. In total, Rose says MSHDA has assisted 26,000 households and has distributed more than $150 million in the last 5 months.

They work with 50 local organizations to get the money out, and are now processing about as many applications per week as are coming in.

“Our service agencies are working very closely with legal aid counterparts and the district courts to try and avoid as many evictions as possible,” Rose said. “About 2/3rds of our counties in the state are processing applications in about 30 days, but there are longer wait times in Wayne County.”

That's because Wayne County makes up 40% of the state’s applications, which are handled by organizations like Wayne Metro Community Action Agency.

“We launched the program March 15, it’s been one big continuous quality improvement effort the whole way through,” said Wayne Metro Department Director of Integration Michael Centi.

Wayne Metro originally had 10 employees handling evictions but now has 150. Last month they tripled the number of applications processed, and say they’re working as fast as they can.

"We've really taken advantage of every opportunity we’ve had to streamline this program and get the assistance out the door faster and efficiently than we have in the past,” Centi said.

For landlords like Paige, he needs his money soon. Not only is he not getting paid, he’s also had to pay for flooding repairs and storm damage throughout the summer on his properties.

“Landlords need the money so we can address those concerns right there," Paige said. "So holding up the money is really messing up everybody and everything.”

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