The city of Santa Clarita received approximately 850 applications for its rental assistance program ahead of the program’s April 30 application deadline.
“Now we’re in the process of basically fully vetting the applications,” said Michael Villegas, the city’s preservation officer, “determining eligibility (and) getting all the landlord information that we need to be able to start putting them through the process to remit payment.”
Residents who did not apply to the city’s program can still apply for rental assistance from the state, which is offering similar supports as the city’s program, according to Villegas.
Villegas said the city is sending the state information on applicants for the city’s program “to ensure that there’s no duplication of benefits.”
“Our program is focusing on rental arrearages, that is our primary focus. Our second is prospective payments, so those who are basically caught up and may need some assistance moving forward,” he said, noting that the state is also helping eligible tenants with late payments on their utility bills.
The city has nearly completed checking for applicant eligibility. Next, the city will collect documentation from landlords whose tenants are eligible to receive support through the program.
Little resistance from SCV landlords
Villegas said he received little resistance to the program from landlords during his early outreach.
“It’s money that we’re going to give them to be able to pay for money that is owed to them,” Villegas said, noting that he has heard from the state and Los Angeles County that many landlords have been unwilling to participate in similar rental assistance programs.
Santa Clarita residents seeking rental assistance from the city had to meet all four eligibility requirements, including the following:
- Residing in a rental unit located in the city.
- Having a household income at or below 80% of the area median income.
- Experiencing a reduction in household income, incurring significant costs, or experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID-19, such as unemployment.
- Having one or more members who can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley has used some of its funds to provide rental assistance to the families it serves, according to Roche Vermaak, the nonprofit’s director.
However, Vermaak said none of the 30 families his organization currently serves were eligible for the city’s rental assistance program.
“We’re so thankful for what the city has done, but we’ve reached out to every one of our clients and not a single one is eligible for rent relief because they’ve already lost their housing,” he said.
Vermaak said Family Promise is making an appeal to the community to help their families find affordable housing.
“If someone has an extra bedroom in their house, would they consider renting that out,” Vermaak said, noting that many of the families he serves had never experienced homelessness until experiencing a life-altering event, like a divorce or unemployment.
“We’re not talking about an entire family — maybe just to a single mother with one child. Because they simply can’t afford rent by themselves,” Vermaak said. “But if we can get somebody that rents out the room at $600 to $800 a month, we can assist that family and get them into housing.”