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Davenport hopes to provide additional assistance to low-income renters

Davenport hopes to provide additional assistance to low-income renters

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Davenport city officials hope to provide additional assistance to low-income renters struggling to make payments during the pandemic, beginning early next month.

Details, however, have not yet been finalized.

Davenport City Council members held a public hearing Wednesday on three new assistance programs through federal CARES Act funding disbursed by the state to cities.

The city is set to receive $918,765 to assist homeless households with hotel vouchers, and to assist low-to-moderate-income renters and homeowners in danger of being displaced or foreclosure due to the pandemic.

While not yet finalized, officials anticipate starting to accept applications for assistance in early October, said Bruce Berger, director of community planning and economic development.

The proposed $275,000 rental assistance program is for individuals and households in danger of being displaced. It would provide a security deposit and one or two months of rent — or up to three months of rent for existing tenants — up to $3,000. Applicants will have to meet income guidelines.

Davenport city officials previously repurposed existing federal funding used in the city's Urban Homestead program to provide rental assistance of up to $1,000 per month for up to three months to help those facing eviction during the pandemic due to layoffs or reduced hours.

"This program would likely complement the previous program, functioning like a temporary Section 8 (housing) voucher in some ways for those who are currently homeless, wherein an applicant who meets program requirements would be given a period of time to find a qualifying unit," Berger wrote in a memo to council members.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month issued at temporary moratorium on evictions nationwide to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

The moratorium, which runs from Sept. 4 to Dec. 31, is intended to keep people from becoming homeless during the pandemic. It does not include rental assistance or forgiveness.

While the new federal ban grants renters a reprieve, it does not solve the problem for those who may owe months' worth of rent without any improvement in their hopes of finding a job. As a result, cities are setting up their own rental assistance funds to help residents pay rent.

Protections under the CDC moratorium are also not automatic. Tenants struggling with rent must fill out a form certifying that they meet certain eligibility requirements and provide it to their landlord as eviction proceedings have resumed in Iowa.

"It seems as if a landlord, a property owner, may say to a tenant, 'Hey, you're behind in rent. You need to get that fixed in the next three days,'" Berger said. "They don't have to go through a full-on eviction to feel like they need to move."

Another $275,000 in mortgage assistance would be available for property owners that have missed two or more mortgage payments and would provide up to three months of mortgage payments going forward, up to $3,000. Applicants must show that they were in good standing with the lender as of March 1 and also meet income guidelines.

City officials, though, may hold off of offering assistance until the start of next year, Berger said, due to a ban on foreclosures for homes backed by the Federal Housing Administration through the end of the year.

"There hasn't been as much of need for that from what the state of Iowa has seen," he said. "We'd like to get the program through the state approval process. Then, as that need becomes more great, perhaps in January, we may launch that program. ... It seems like launching the rental assistance program right now is a good idea, even though the eviction moratorium is still in effect, because I think people are being displaced."

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