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City Council Approves Guidelines for Emergency Rental Assistance Eligibility

Published on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 | 4:53 am
 

The Pasadena City Council on Monday approved eligibility guidelines for a program that will help some 220 low-income households make rent payments if they’ve been affected economically by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a unanimous vote, the council approved guidelines for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. A product of the city’s Department of Housing, the program is designed to spread $1 million in federal money to eligible Pasadena households.

The program amounts to a kind of companion measure to the city’s recent eviction moratorium, which is aimed at helping renters who’ve been hurt economically by the pandemic stay in their homes.

However, the moratorium carries only a six-month deferral of back rent owed – an element that some local renters and housing advocates have criticized as providing only thin protection for endangered renters.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program is a step toward helping in that area, if only a bit.

“This particular program is meant to assist those households that would likely have the hardest time to make up that back rent, even over a six-month period,’’ said William Huang, the city’s director of housing and career services.

Under the program, the city will now allocate $1 million and make grants to assist approximately 220 low-income renters. The money comes from Community Development Block Grant funds through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Because, according to a city staff report, “it is anticipated that the demand for such assistance will be great and available program funding will be oversubscribed,’’ a complicated points system to determine eligibility was drawn up by the Housing Department.

Those were the guidelines formalized on Monday. Council Member Victor Gordo, a rental property landlord, recused himself from the vote.

Among the proposed guidelines, eligible households could receive grants for up to three months of past due rent not to exceed $4,500 per unit if the renters’ annual gross incomes do not exceed the low-income limit; and if the renters have notified landlords of their inability to pay rent due to the pandemic and have a current residential lease. (Renters who receive any form of government rental assistance, or who live in HUD-assisted multifamily housing, would not be eligible.)

The guidelines contain a detailed scoring system, complete with tie-breakers, to determine eligibility – for example, giving more points to people who have lived in Pasadena for a minimum of five years, and to households that have at least one minor. Seniors also get additional points under the scoring system.

Full details of the proposed guidelines can be found in a staff memo attached to Monday’s agenda. It’s available at: http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/councilagendas/2020%20Agendas/Jun_08_20/AR%205.pdf

Applications can be submitted online through the Department of Housing’s website at https://www.cityofpasadena.net/housing/. There will be a 14-day application window, during which period household eligibility will be determined by the department.

“This is a complicated piece of business – now the trick is to get the money out and make it work,’’ Mayor Terry Tornek said following the vote.

In other moves Monday:

* The council extended the operating agreement between the city and the Rose Bowl Operating Company (RBOC) through July 2023. The current agreement would have expired June 30.

The RBOC, a nonprofit public benefit corporation, was created by the city in 1994 to run the Rose Bowl Stadium and the Brookside Golf Courses. The Rose Bowl has been hit hard economically by the coronavirus pandemic, but its leadership was praised across the board by council members of Monday.

“The RBOC is currently examining a variety of short- and longer-term opportunities to address these unique challenges, as well as to address the financial challenges the RBOC was facing even before the pandemic,’’ RBOC said in a memo to the council.

“It is possible that to realize some of these opportunities, changes to the provisions of the operating agreement may be necessary. The duration of the proposed extension, up to three years, is intended to provide sufficient time to make such determinations and then return to the (RBOC’s) board and council for further action, perhaps even within the next year or so.’’

* The council also voted to reinstate certain parking-enforcement rules but left in place, for the time being, several others that have been temporarily relaxed because of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders.

Parking rules that will be reinstated include: Metered payments (enforcement to resume June 9, with warnings to be issued for one week and citations to resume June 16); and enforcement of time limits in residential neighborhoods (enforcement to resume June 9, with warnings to be issued for one week and citations to resume June 16). The council deferred resuming normal overnight parking and daytime street-sweeping rules.

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