D.C. officials reach out to private landlords for help to end homelessness
Homeless service providers and private landlords came together for a recent networking session to build relationships to combat the District’s housing crisis.
The D.C. Interagency Council on Homelessness Landlord Outreach Work Group holds monthly meetings and organizes events like this meet and greet to ultimately create a central network of housing units to expedite placement of people who receive housing assistance.
“It’s a partnership,” said Adam Maier of Pathways to Housing D.C. “We’ve got to work together.” Maier and his team have created more than 100 partnerships with area landlords that now rent to Pathways clients, according to the organization’s website.
Melissa Robinson, who co-chairs the ICH Landlord Outreach Work Group, described the event as an opportunity to build and sustain connections. Robinson hopes conversational interactions like this can break down stigmas around what it means to be homeless and what programs are in place to end homelessness in the city.
We would like landlords to be a part of our mission and goal of bringing affordable housing to low-income individuals and families,” Robinson said. “It helps to have a shared vision and shared goal.”
One example of program stigma is rapid re-housing, which places people in market-rate apartments with a lease and subsidizes their rent for the first two years. This model has a bad name in the landlord community, according to Robinson. She acknowledged that the program does not always succeed but said the District government wants to build on the instances where it has both helped the client and was a good fit for the landlord.
However, it takes more than identifying a landlord interested in working with the government to place someone into housing with financial assistance.
Contractor Wallace Medeiros said he has worked on several affordable properties in Southeast D.C. but his estimates to help bring them up to code before clients can move in are usually viewed as too high. “We have the solutions and the products and the manpower We want to provide for landlords,” Medeiros said.
Income requirements are the biggest challenge, according to Britney McLean, a case manager with Capitol Hill Group Ministries. She said landlords can easily confuse the different types of assistance programs a client might have and the changing requirements that go along with them. A big part of her job has become explaining the specifics and being available as a resource to her clients as well as their landlords. “They won’t get rid of me,” McLean said. “We work with them for the amount of time a client is with the program
Allen Page, a landlord said that the meet and greet enabled him to reach a different population than his usual marketing efforts would. He is interested in helping where he can and willing to work with tenants. Unfortunately, Page said he was unable to rent one of the apartments he had available because the unit was too large to be covered by benefits available to a single homeless veteran and too small to match the needs of a homeless family.