Metro Atlanta city to help tenants facing eviction pay their rent

Clarkston City Hall and police department on Rowland Street (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
Clarkston City Hall and police department on Rowland Street (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

The city of Clarkston, anticipating a possible wave of evictions from local apartment buildings, says it will provide direct rent relief to help people stay in their homes.

The City Council last week approved allocating $100,000 to support people facing eviction, paying a portion of their rent for up to three months.

In the small DeKalb County city, more than 80% of the city’s 12,600 residents live in apartments. Officials worry that many in Clarkston have not been able to pay their rent since the coronavirus pandemic began, as businesses closed and thousands of workers around the state were laid off, said Clarkston Councilwoman Yterenickia “YT” Bell, who proposed the program.

“People are going to be displaced and put out of their homes due to a health crisis that was out of their control and not having the means to afford having a roof over their head,” Bell said. “At this point, we need to ease some of that burden.”

Thousands of evictions over nonpayment of rent have been filed in Georgia since the coronavirus pandemic began. But a statewide judicial emergency, which has been in effect since mid-March, has suspended most court functions, including eviction proceedings. Unless it is extended again, the judicial emergency is set to expire Saturday.

When that happens, housing advocates worry many will be evicted once court hearings ramp up again.

Clarkston’s new program aims to prevent that. It directs officials to set up a process for identifying tenants who qualify for rent relief through a set of criteria, including the number of people they support and loss of income caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Of those who apply and are selected, the city can contribute up to 50% of their rent for up to three months.

Councilwoman YT Bell.
Councilwoman YT Bell.

Credit: Courtesy/City of Clarkston

Credit: Courtesy/City of Clarkston

Bell said the city does yet not know exactly how many renters in Clarkston are currently facing eviction, but hopes the $100,000 will support “as many as possible.”

“What happens, essentially, is the city will reach out to landlords and say, ‘Who is on the eviction list they have?’” she said. “We’re hoping that the landlords will work with us on this.”

The money is coming from the Clarkston Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which is financed by private community development projects. The fund has a total of $200,000.

The City Council also passed a resolution formally urging private lenders to reduce or suspend mortgage payments for the next six months and suggesting landlords give rent relief to tenants.

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