More federal money available for rental relief in the state

Free Press staff report | 2/18/2021, 6 p.m.
Virginia is pumping an additional $160 million into its rental relief program aimed at helping tenants and landlords avoid eviction ...
Governor Northam

Virginia is pumping an additional $160 million into its rental relief program aimed at helping tenants and landlords avoid eviction proceedings, Gov. Ralph S. Northam announced Tuesday.

Gov. Northam stated that the additional money comes from a new federal allocation of $524 million to Virginia for such housing initiatives.

The money is flowing from the stimulus package that Congress created and former President Trump signed in late December. That package included $600 checks for individuals.

The $160 million represents the first allocation from the $524 million, the governor stated, noting that additional funds could be steered to the state relief program based on the need.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have prioritized efforts to keep Virginians safely in their homes,” Gov. Northam stated in announcing the funding during a stop in Arlington.

“There continues to be an overwhelming need for additional relief to help those struggling to make ends meet,” he continued. “This new federal funding will provide an important lifeline to individuals and families and bolster our ongoing work to address housing affordability in the Commonwealth.

“I urge eligible households to act quickly and work with their landlords to seek rental assistance through this program,” the governor stated.

The state program is administered through the state Department of Housing and Community Development, or DHCD. Information and applications for tenants and landlords are available online at virginiahousing.com/rentrelief.

Residents of Chesterfield and Fairfax counties should seek assistance through the local rental assistance programs that operate separately from the state program, according to DHCD.

The new funding will be used solely to support landlords and tenants, based on federal guidelines, which did not include mortgage assistance this time, state officials.

The state began providing rent and mortgage relief last June during the pandemic using federal CARES Act funds.

To date, the state program has distributed more than $83.7 million in 24,294 rent and mortgage payments for Virginia households, with most of the support going to families with children, DHCD reported.

Some of the new funding also will go to the Virginia Housing Trust Funds to support the creation of apartments with lower rents, the governor stated, and he is negotiating with the General Assembly money committees on the amount based on the new federal allocation.

Gov. Northam noted that the General Assembly previously increased the allocation to the trust funds from housing money included in the federal CARES Act.

Prince William County Delegate Luke Torian, chair of the House Appropriations Committee and a member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and Fairfax Sen. Janet Howell, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, expressed delight at the heightened funding for the state’s rental relief initiative.

“This program has been critical to addressing and preventing evictions for thousands of Virginians,” Delegate Torian stated.

The extra funding for eviction relief arrives as a new law the General Assembly passed and the governor signed begins to take effect that bars landlords from evicting tenants they have not been informed of rental relief programs and provided assistance in applying for such help.