Gwinnett launches eviction prevention program

Gwinnett has started a program to provide rent relief and reduce evictions. (Credit: Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services)
Gwinnett has started a program to provide rent relief and reduce evictions. (Credit: Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services)

Gwinnett County is using a portion of its federal coronavirus relief funds to help prevent the evictions of people hit hard financially by the pandemic.

The CARES Act funds will be used immediately to help prevent evictions for as many as 400 families whose landlords have already filed to have them removed from their homes.

Matt Elder, the director of HomeFirst Gwinnett, said he had already received 150 applications for help by Monday afternoon. The first phase of the program will pay up to six months of past-due rent for people who have already had evictions filed. The program, known as Project Reset, will provide direct payments to landlords who have negotiated to forgive late fees and filing fees.

“There’s a potential for imminent homelessness if nothing is done,” Elder said.

In the future, the program will seek to help people before eviction notices are filed. Elder said his group is partnering with workforce development to help people who have lost jobs because of the pandemic get back to work, so they can afford payments on their own.

There are currently 400 active dispossessory filings in Gwinnett Magistrate Court, Elder said. Court staff has reached out to both landlords and tenants for all those cases to encourage them to apply for the county program.

In a statement, Chief Magistrate Kristina Hammer Blum said the program’s goal is to bring more social service resources directly into the court system.

Elder said the program would help tenants in large apartment complexes as well as those living in mom-and-pop rental homes. The intervention will help keep rental properties on the market, he said.

He said the county’s approach has no income limit or cap on how much can be paid, and goes further than other eviction-prevention programs in the metro area.

“A single eviction filing can inhibit the ability to find housing thereafter,” Elder said. “We’re helping people as much as possible.”

The program, which launched last week, will go through the end of the year. For more information, call 770-847-6765 or email MagistrateCourtProjectRESET@gwinnettcounty.com.

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