Housing in Brief: Philadelphia Is Paying Landlords to House LGBTQ Youth

Plus, Charlotte approves $25.8 million for affordable housing, and Washington becomes the first state with right to counsel for tenants facing eviction. 

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Philadelphia Is Paying Landlords to House LGBTQ Youth

Philadelphia is testing out a new program that will pay landlords to house LGBTQ young people who have been experiencing homelessness, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Way Home Project, run by the city’s Office of Homeless Services, the emergency housing provider SELF Inc., and the William Way LGBT Community Center, will offer a year of rental support to landlords to house the tenants, totaling around $400,000, according to the Inquirer. Around 40% of unhoused people in the region between the ages of 18 and 26 are LGBTQ, the Inquirer says. Many, the paper notes, also “experience family rejection, discrimination, harassment, and violence, experts on homelessness say.”

In order to find landlords to participate in the program, a staff member with the Way Home Project cold-called hundreds of property owners to try to match them with tenants, the Inquirer reported. Ultimately the group has so far identified 54 landlords willing to participate, according to the story. Already 12 people have been housed, and another 40 are expected to be placed by June, the report says. Tenants will pay up to 30% of their income toward rent, with the remainder of the rent guaranteed to the landlord by the city, according to the report.

“It’s innovative, cutting-edge stuff,” Liz Hersh, director of the Office of Homeless Service, told the Inquirer. “It’s designed and tailored to connect LGBTQ people to landlord rental-assistance … We will try to sustain it, grow it, replicate it, learn from it.”

Charlotte Approves $25.8 million for Affordable Housing Projects

The city council in Charlotte, North Carolina, voted to approve $25.8 million in spending on 14 affordable-housing projects around the city, according to the Charlotte Observer. But the vote also generated debate about where to place the projects, the report says — whether it’s better to spend more for fewer units in high-opportunity areas close to jobs and transit or to spread the funding out for more units in areas with lower land costs. One council member said that her district carried a greater share of affordable housing projects than other communities, and said in a meeting that she had “heard from residents who want more mixed-use and mixed-income options, including home ownership opportunities to stabilize neighborhoods.” Other council members said that the city should focus on areas with lower land costs to maximize the number of new units.

The expenditure is the largest yet from the city’s Housing Trust Fund, according to a press release from the City of Charlotte. It could support “as many as 1,422 affordable rental units for families, seniors and people experiencing homelessness,” according to the release. A quarter of the units will be targeted to people earning up to 30% of Area Median Income, which in Charlotte is $83,500 for a family of four. Charlotte voters have voted to approve around $100 million in bond sales to support affordable-housing efforts in the last several years, according to multiple reports. In 2019, as Next City reported, the city council adopted new guidelines to help determine where its housing money would be spent.

Washington State Passes a Right to Counsel for Tenants

Washington became the first state to guarantee legal counsel for tenants facing eviction after Governor Jay Inslee signed a new bill into law last week, according to a report in the Seattle Times. The law “guarantees that tenants who receive public assistance or who have incomes at 200% or below the federal poverty level — $25,760 annually for individuals, $53,000 for a household of four — will have access to public attorneys at no cost during evictions,” according to the report. It’s part of a larger bill aimed at preventing evictions in the state, the report says. A statewide moratorium on evictions is currently set to end June 30, according to the report.

As Next City has reported, a right to counsel for tenants was gaining steam at the city level even before the onset of the pandemic, which only raised concerns about evictions further. John Pollock, coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, told the Seattle Times that six other states are currently considering statewide versions of the law.

“A right to counsel furthers racial, economic, and social justice while helping to address the extreme imbalance of power between landlords and tenants,” Pollock told the paper.

Also this week, according to a press release from the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, New York City Council passed two bills strengthening the city’s version of the law. One bill would require the city to work with existing tenant groups to educate tenants about right to counsel in eviction cases. The other bill moves forward by one year the date by which all income-eligible tenants will have access to counsel to June 1 of this year.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.

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Tags: affordable housingphiladelphiahomelessnessevictionscharlottelgbtqright to counsel

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