UPDATE: Rental and Mortgage Assistance Now Available for Income-Eligible East Lansing Residents

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UPDATE, Aug. 11, 2020: The Emergency Rental & Mortgage Assistance Program for East Lansing residents who have income below 80% of the area median income is now up and running. The program is being administered by the Capital Area Housing Partnership. The detailed requirements and application form are available on their website, or you can contact CAHP at (517) 332-4663 or info@capitalareahousing.org. Applications will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Alternatively, you may be able to apply to a similar program for Ingham County residents, which has slightly different requirements. Information about that program is available from evictions@hccsnet.org or by calling (517) 657-8145.  

Original article from Aug. 6, 2020, follows:

East Lansing residents whose income is at or below the area median income can apply for rental assistance if they owe at least one month of back rent. Mortgage assistance is also on the way.

Yesterday, a group of nonprofit housing providers launched an Eviction Diversion Program to provide rental assistance to residents in Ingham County, funded by $2 million in federal funding to response to the coronavirus pandemic – a share of $50 million in funding for this purpose allocated by the Michigan legislature to counties throughout the state.

East Lansing residents who are eligible can apply to this Ingham County program.

The City of East Lansing expects to launch its own program of rental and mortgage assistance within about a week, City Planning Department staff Amy Schlusler-Schmitt told ELi. The City plans to allocate $121,820 to this program.

Funding for both the City and County programs comes from the CARES Act that Congress adopted in late March to provide money to cities and states to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

East Lansing was allocated $289,484 in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for programs to respond to the pandemic, in addition to its regular annual CDBG allocations.

East Lansing will use its CDBG-CV additional funding for two programs – one for rental and mortgage assistance and the other for small business grants. The small business grant program has yet to be launched, as well.

Schlusler-Schmitt told ELi in mid-July that the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development HUD had approved the guidelines for the Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program as they had been presented to the City Council. The Council approved this program and the small business assistance program at its May 26 meeting, the only action it needed to take on them, according to Schlusler-Schmitt.

Details of the City’s programs will be published here when they are launched.

How the rental assistance programs will work

The Ingham County and City of East Lansing programs have similar features regarding rental assistance, although there are differences, as well.

The basic approach to rental assistance of the two programs is the same: individuals who provide evidence of their income and evidence that they are behind on their rent can apply for a grant that will be paid directly to their landlord.

Sharon Dade, Director of New Hope Community Center at Holy Cross Services, which will administer the Ingham County grant program, explained the logic this way: “The Eviction Diversion Program will ensure families can stay safe in their homes while helping landlords receive the back rent they are owed with the expiration of the eviction moratorium.”

The Executive Order signed by Governor Whitmer on June 26 extended suspension of evictions through July 15 and created the Eviction Diversion Program, for which the Michigan legislature had allocated the HUD CDBG funds.

The Ingham County program is open to people whose income is less than 100% of the area median income, which is defined as $56,200 for an individual and $80,200 for a family of four, according to an August 5 press release for this program. Half of the funds will be reserved for people whose income is less than 50% of the area median income.

The City of East Lansing’s program will be open to people whose income is up to 80% of the area median income, which is defined as $41,650 for an individual or $59,450 for a family of four, according to the City staff report in May. Individuals must also provide evidence that they have faced a hardship related to COVID-19, such as loss of job, decrease in hours at work, or unexpected medical bills.

Each household or rental unit will be eligible to receive up to $2,000 total in financial assistance over a period of three consecutive months from the East Lansing program. An initial grant can be made for one month’s rent, with the possibility of applying for two additional months of rent payments, if the applicant completes a housing counseling session.

When the East Lansing program is launched, grants will be made on a first-come, first-served basis. The City estimates that about 100 households will be helped from $100,000 in grant money for this program, according to Schlusler-Schmitt.

HUD funding in the amount of $21,820 will be paid to the Capital Area Housing Partnership (CAHP) “to support staff salaries, benefits and any operating charges they may have,” Schlusler-Schmitt told ELi. CAHP will administer the grant program, and its certified housing counselors will provide that service, as needed.

The larger Ingham County program has a higher maximum amount of rental support available to a household. That amount is dependent on income level. People with less than 50% of the area median income can benefit from up to $3,500 in rental payments toward 90% rental arrearage payment. People with higher incomes can benefit from up to $3,000 in rental payments toward a smaller percentage of the amount they are in arrears.

The East Lansing program will provide mortgage as well as rental assistance. Like the rental assistance component, applicants must provide evidence of being at least a month behind in making a mortgage payment, and a grant would be made directly to the mortgage servicer. As with rental assistance, applicants must provide evidence that their income is below 80% of the area median average.

The Ingham County Eviction Diversion Program is being administered by Holy Cross Services in partnership with Advent House Ministries, Capital Area Housing Partnership, Legal Services of South Central Michigan and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – Ingham County. Information is available from evictions@hccsnet.org or by calling (517) 657-8145 from 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday.

When the East Lansing rental and mortgage assistance program gets underway, it will be administered by the Capital Area Housing Partnership. Their phone number is (517) 332-4663.

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