Maine housing businesses are incentivizing landlords to offer properties to weak tenants, a technique that’s working however stays tough to scale up resulting from a scarcity of general items.
Teams from Caribou to South Portland are providing native landlords monetary ensures and logistical assist if they provide items to Maine households experiencing housing instability and homelessness. Two teams utilizing this technique, Portland’s High quality Housing Coalition and the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter of Waterville, have discovered everlasting properties for slightly below 200 households – lots of whom have skilled continual homelessness – this 12 months alone.
Venture Dwelling, the Portland group’s flagship program, has an applicant pool of over 2,000 households ready to be matched with a unit proper now. That underscores the brief provide of housing statewide that’s driving up prices and limiting how far they’ll attain, though policymakers largely see them as successes up to now.
“Provided that we’re in the course of a scarcity, and we might be for some time, most likely, I feel that is most likely the most effective instruments we now have,” Erik Jorgensen, director of presidency relations at MaineHousing, the state’s housing authority, stated.
Waterville’s landlord incentive program took Rick Mitchell out of homelessness faster than he fell into it.
The 47-year-old has lived within the south finish of Waterville all his life. Mitchell labored for a development firm however bought a slew of accidents together with arthritis, pinched nerves and gangrene that made persevering with to work unimaginable. A number of years in the past, he started residing on incapacity checks capped at what he was making earlier than the minimal wage was raised in Maine. That was additionally earlier than housing costs exploded through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mitchell and his spouse have been evicted from their condo earlier this 12 months as a result of their landlord wished to transform the constructing, he stated. They got 45 days to seek out an condo they may pay for on a set revenue, near the middle of city as a result of they don’t have transportation and on the primary ground to accommodate Mitchell’s mobility points.
They couldn’t discover something inside finances in Waterville, so that they started residing behind a U-Haul truck. After 4 days, even the hire for that bought too costly.
Then, a pal of the couple informed them a few landlord, Eric Corridor, who had housed some folks from the native homeless shelter. Via Corridor, Mitchell was related to Yedda Smith, who has run Waterville’s speedy rehousing program because it launched in March.
“Snap of her fingers, she bought me into a spot,” Mitchell stated. “I couldn’t consider it.”
Within the six months since housing Mitchell, he stated Smith has been an “angel,” dealing with all communications between him and his landlord to verify issues go easily.
To make sure Mitchell can afford the condo, Smith helps him finances and drives him to appointments or to the meals financial institution, Mitchell stated. This system additionally provides the owner a monetary assure that this system might be on the hook for any property injury or late funds. She helps each events navigate the state’s voucher program.
“If the owner has a problem with the tenant, like a noise criticism or one thing, we’re in a position to go in and simply specific that,” Smith stated.
Smith has housed 24 households together with Mitchell’s because the program launched in March. She has made connections with round 10 landlords in Kennebec and Somerset counties and hopes to seek out properties for eight extra households this 12 months.
From Portland, Venture Dwelling has developed a community of round 40 landlords throughout York, Cumberland, Oxford, Androscoggin, Sagadahoc, and Kennebec counties. These landlords have helped home greater than 1,500 folks because the program’s launch in 2018, Lucas Schrage, this system’s supervisor.
That’s no small feat at a time when the median hire is $2,500 in Portland, in response to Zillow, but census knowledge exhibits that just about 13 % of the inhabitants lives in poverty.
“Housing is a finite useful resource, and landlords are the pathway to accessing that useful resource,” Schrage stated.
Stigma typically holds landlords again from renting to previously homeless tenants, he stated. However Brit Vitalius, a Portland-based landlord who leads the Southern Maine Landlord Affiliation, identified that such folks may be a cloth problem for landlords.
For instance, they might not have an in depth rental historical past or a credit score rating, he famous. Asylum seekers might have language or cultural boundaries that make it tough to speak wants and navigate state or federal packages.
With a mediating company that vouches for a tenant personally and financially, and guarantees to assist landlords cowl their bills, property managers are coming round to the thought. It typically begins with a take a look at of a unit or two to show if the edges could make it work.
Vitalius, a founding member of the housing coalition, rents out round 30 items in Portland. 4 of his tenants got here by means of Venture Dwelling. He now plans to supply up most new items he purchases in downtown Portland to this system’s tenants going ahead.
“It’s an actual win-win. It’s nearly easy,” Vitalius stated. “If one thing occurs, I’ve a query, a fee is late, it’s taken care of.”