Programs negotiating back rent payments help to reduce evictions?

Tom Boland (
Wed, 28 Jul 1999 23:12:16 -0700 (PDT)

Could programs negotiating payment of back rent benefit people facing eviction?

For an article on a related program, HRA's Rent Arrears Alert in NYC, see
New York Post EDITORIAL - June 20, 1999


For decades, welfare recipients who fell behind on their rent and faced
threats of eviction could either enter a homeless shelter or turn to the
city's Human Resources Administration to bail them out. Like a
deep-pocketed fairy, the administration would pay the back rent and allow
the tenant to move on - likely to repeat the irresponsible process all over

  HRA Commissioner Jason Turner has a new approach. The Rent Arrears Alert
pilot program, launched May 26 at the Crotona Job Center, is designed to
prevent eviction, homelessness and the continuing cycle of dependence on
the city.

  The program brings together soon-to-be-evicted tenants and their
landlords who are awaiting payment.

  Before both parties head to Housing Court, the city negotiates a possible
reduction in the arrears or the rent. While HRA will still pay a portion of
the arrears, the staff also assists the tenants in finding ways to meet
part of their obligations. They may need help finding a new job, or in
learning money-management skills; family members or community groups may be
willing to help them meet their the payments.

  Giving tenants somewhere to turn before they are served eviction notices
will letHRA address payment problems when the sums are manageable. And
during the pilot program, the city established good relations with several
landlords who were willing to negotiate with tenants.

  Landlords - facing with the prospect of turning someone out on the
street, plus the legal bills and other costs of eviction - found guarantees
of partial arrears payment and a stable tenant acceptable.

  The Rent Arrears Alert program is just one part of HRA's larger drive to
move people on welfare onto a path toward self-sufficiency and independence.

  "Our new design is much more proactive and efficient in its method of
helping families rather than just defaulting to the Court system for
intervention," said Commissioner Turner.

  The program has already served 149 people, saving the city and state more
than $40,000. It will expand to all of the city's job centers by December.

  By taking such a hands-on approach, the Human Resources Administration is
sending a new signal to tenants in money trouble. Though there is no fairy
godmother who can make mistakes vanish altogether, the city is helping in
ways that foster personal accountability and responsibility.


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