Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Tim Denson said he is introducing a proposal to create a program that will prevent evictions by partially paying back rent in exchange for landlords allowing tenants to stay in their homes. He is pushing for a vote on the program at the commission’s May 18 meeting.
Called Project RESET, the program is based on similar ones in Dekalb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties. Tenants who receive eviction notices would be invited to apply, along with their landlord. Nonprofit housing partners would review their eligibility and make a settlement offer to the landlord. If accepted, Magistrate Court judges would dismiss the eviction order. Denson described the program as a win-win because tenants get a “reset,” while landlords who would receive no back rent if they had the tenant evicted get partial payment for rent owed.
The program would be funded initially by a portion of Athens-Clarke County’s anticipated $57 million share of the stimulus package Congress passed and President Biden signed in March. That money is expected to start arriving this month, and ACC has two-and-a-half years to spend it. “I would like to see at least $200,000 to start with,” Denson said.
In addition to the disruption homelessness causes families, it’s more cost-effective to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place than to rehouse them after they lose their homes, according to Denson.
A CDC moratorium on evictions is in place until June 30 but the courts may end it earlier. A federal judge threw out the moratorium on May 5. However, it remains in place while the ruling is appealed.
In the meantime, evictions are still taking place because not everyone knows about that program or is able to apply, Denson said. He also raised the likelihood of a rash of evictions once the moratorium expires.
“Hopefully we can have this in place by the time the floodgates open up,” Denson said. He estimated that it would take about a month to set up.
As currently envisioned, Project RESET would not be available to homeowners who are facing foreclosures because federal mortgage relief is already available, Denson said. But a similar program for homeowners in arrears is a possibility in the future.
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