Atlanta – In the wake of the coronavirus, Atlanta-based nonprofit Star-C Programs, which bills itself as a sustainable education model with an affordable housing solution, has established its Eviction Relief Fund to help apartment tenants in need.
“Many renters have been stable residents, but now have experienced temporary challenges and can’t pay rent,” says Marjy Stagmeier, who has over 20 years of experience as an apartment landlord and is the founder of Star-C. “While the eviction moratoriums are helpful, rent continues to accrue, and tenants are facing increased financial burden that will be hard to pay without meaningful relief.”
To that end, she notes, Star-C is launching the eviction relief fund to help residents stay in their homes without becoming overwhelmed by accruing unpaid rent. Star-C will raise funds to cover a portion of rental payments on behalf of tenants. Tenants will contribute half of the outstanding rent, and landlords will be asked to waive late fees and other penalties.
The eviction relief program started after Stagmeier and her business partners began studying their apartment rent rolls to evaluate delinquent rents and provide options for tenants to remain in their homes.
“In one instance, we had a long-term legacy tenant, and her pension check was stolen,” Stagmeier says. “Evicting her and her grandchildren made no sense, but eviction is the mindset of many property owners to cure rent default. But no one ‘wins’ in those scenarios.”
The eviction-intervention model inspired the board of Star-C to adopt what is now called the Eviction Relief Fund and extend it to other like-minded landlords. The program is being rolled out to the greater Atlanta community as part of Star-C’s mission to reduce transiency.
“This eviction relief program was conceived long before COVID-19 and has been operating in various forms at two of Star-C’s sites for almost a year,” says Audrea Rease, Executive Director of Star-C. “Another example was during the last government shutdown; we were able to help a TSA employee stay in her home.”
Rease notes that the Eviction Relief Fund is intended to last beyond the current pandemic, to assist tenants in getting back on their feet on an ongoing basis. In addition to placing some responsibilities for the arrangement on tenants and other responsibilities on the landlord, the Eviction Relief Fund also connects tenants receiving assistance through the program with other resources. This serves as both an educational component and a way to help tenants find long-term stability.
“This fund will be a partnership between landlords, tenants and Star-C to reduce transiency – in the form of preventable moves that disrupt families, work, learning for kids and for communities,” Rease says. “It’s really a win-win-win, with better outcomes for everyone.”
In a nutshell, Rease explains the basics of the program. Qualified landlords will sign up for the program and prescreen tenant applications from those in need and who want to apply for relief. All of the forms are available on Star-C’s website and can be submitted online as well.
Fundraising/donation: Star-C has established an Eviction Relief Fund GoFundMe page with an initial fundraising goal of $50,000. Of course, donations may be made to Star-C for its ongoing programs at any time.
*The Eviction Relief Fund application process is online-only, and awards will be made subject to funding availability.
About Star-C Programs: Star C’s mission is to improve the education system by offering community-building programs (After School Education, Wellness and Gardening) in affordable apartment communities near underperforming schools. Star-C partners with conscientious apartment owners who are committed to keeping rents affordable for families living on incomes at the poverty level or up to 80% of area median income. The goal is the reduction of transiency, which causes families to move constantly in search of rent affordability. The casualty of transiency is the children who are pulled out of school and must begin school all over again with each move, sometimes several schools in one academic year.