Northam launches rent, mortgage relief program for those impacted by pandemic

Launch of rent and mortgage relief program

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam has launched the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) which will provide $50 million in federal CARES Act funding to help households facing eviction or foreclosure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RMRP will help provide short-term assistance in paying rent or mortgage payments.

“Expanding access to safe, affordable housing has been and will continue to be a top priority of my administration, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Northam. “The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program will help Virginians experiencing financial instability as a result of this unprecedented health crisis by preventing evictions and foreclosures and keeping Virginia families safely in their homes as we battle this virus.”

“We’re really grateful for the development of the program,” said Patrick McCloud, CEO of The Virginia Apartment Management Association. “We really think this helps plug one of the gaps in the economy.”

With evictions now resuming across the Commonwealth, Northam hopes this initiative will help keep more people in their homes.

However some question whether the initial $50 million dollars set aside is enough.

"One of the things with a severely under funded program is you're probably going to have to make distinctions on who can actually access that money or you're just going to run out of it quickly; which means people are not going to be able to get it later in the stage," said Louisa Rich, an attorney with Legal Aid Justice Center.

The Virginia Department of House and Community Development says families must meet certain requirements to be eligible for the program.
The Virginia Department of House and Community Development says families must meet certain requirements to be eligible for the program. (Source: HDCH)

Eligible families must show their inability to make payments due to the pandemic, monthly rent or mortgage must be at or below 150 percent of Fair Market Rent (FMR) and eligible households must have a gross household income at or below 80 percent of area median income (AMI).

“It really is designed to protect those most vulnerable Virginians; we’re hopeful that will work,” McCloud said. “Right now in the property management industry, I know talking with our members, they’re working on payment plans. We’re in the business of keeping people in housing, that’s what we do. We’re hopeful this will add another tool into a whole list of options.”

“Safe, stable housing is essential for public health,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “As we continue to secure funding for rent and mortgage assistance, this $50 million investment will serve the most vulnerable Virginians while providing a roadmap for future relief.”

Precedence will be given to households without other federal and state eviction or foreclosure protections. From June 29 to July 20, priority will be given to those with current gross income equal or below 50 percent of AMI. Then after July 20, households with current gross incomes at or below 80 percent of AMI will be also be included. Also, households with an unlawful detainer action dated prior to June 8 will be given top consideration.

Meanwhile, Northam also requested an extension of the eviction freeze, but that was denied; something the Virginia Apartment Management Associations agrees with.

In a statement released Friday, McCloud wrote:

“We believe the Governor’s ask for a continued moratorium on evictions related to nonpayment of January, February and March rent simply tees up a tsunami of accruing debt that will drown out the ability of Virginians to economically recover. Virginia has an established set of COVID-19 protections. The Governor has created a rent relief program. We have the 60-day stay of eviction. The tools are there to Forward Virginia. We have to start using them.”

On Monday he said, “Part of the business model requires entering the courts when something happens. If you stop that part of the business model, you really shut down an entire section of the business model.”

However, the Legal Aid Justice Center feels resuming evictions right now is not smart when more assistance is needed.

“We’re not asking for an unlimited eviction freeze; we’re just asking for a logical period of time so we can figure out what the rent and mortgage relief program actually looks like so that it’s actually able to be rolled out at the same time the freeze is lifted,” Rich said. “It’s no surprise that having people out on the street or even just getting bunked up with relatives or anything because they’re getting kicked out of their homes is not going to be a good thing when we have a global pandemic going on,” Rich said.

The grants will be administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development through 31 partners across the state. Those partners and their locations can be viewed here.

To find an RMRP organization and to conduct a self-assessment for eligibility, CLICK HERE or call 211 VIRGINIA by dialing 2-1-1. For more information, CLICK HERE.

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