Star-C housing-education nonprofit receives major grant toward eviction intervention efforts
Eviction Relief Fund – aimed at easing burden on families in distress – seeks to partner with Cobb County landlords, community organizations to identify and assist affordable housing residents
The Eviction Relief Fund, a program of Atlanta-based nonprofit Star-C Programs, which launched in April in the wake of the coronavirus, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the Cobb County Board of Commissioners.
The funds are a pass-along grant, part of the $132.6 million Cobb County received from the CARES (The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. With the grant, Star-C’s Eviction Relief Fund is tasked with identifying affordable apartment communities in Cobb County where residents are in need of temporary assistance to help them avoid eviction.
“Many renters have been stable residents, but are now experiencing 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 and board chair of Star-C. “Rent continues to accrue, and tenants are facing increased financial burden that will be hard to pay without meaningful relief. We’re a logical partner for municipalities and other local governments as they seek ways to connect citizens in need with CARES Act funds.”
In keeping with its mission as a sustainable education model with an affordable housing solution, Star-C will focus on residents of affordable housing communities near high-need public elementary schools. That is, those schools ranked in the lower third in performance statewide.
“Time is of the essence, in two senses,” says Audrea Rease, Executive Director of Star-C. “Families who are in need can’t wait and the CARES Act funding has an expiration date – in our case December 30. Our mission is to reduce transiency – in the form of preventable moves that disrupt families, work, learning for kids and for communities – and during this pandemic that need is greater than ever.”
While noting that the Eviction Relief Fund is an ongoing program – and thus both raising and disbursing funds on a regular basis – Rease says her nonprofit is actively seeking to partner with landlords, educators, community organizations and others who can help identify tenants in need.
In Cobb County, the Eviction Relief Fund, aimed at helping residents stay in their homes without becoming overwhelmed by accruing unpaid rent, can cover up to 70 percent of outstanding rent for two months at qualifying apartment communities. Tenants contribute 20 percent of the outstanding rent, and landlords waive 10 percent, plus late fees and other penalties. Qualified landlords will sign up for the program and prescreen tenant applications from those in need and who want to apply for relief.
“Another type of resident we anticipate being able to help are those who may be in extended stay hotels and want to make the transition to more stable affordable housing,” Rease says. “We can leverage these funds to cover their security deposit and first month’s rent, up to a certain limit.”
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. It was conceived long before COVID-19 and has been operating in various forms at two of Star-C’s sites for more than a year. With the advent of the Eviction Relief Fund, that eviction-intervention model now extends to properties other than those served by Star-C’s core programs, including after-school education, wellness and gardening.
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.
Landlords and other organizations seeking to partner with Star-C’s Eviction Relief Fund should visit the eviction relief page on our website at www.star-c.org. All of the forms are available on Star-C’s website and can be submitted online as well. The Eviction Relief Fund application process is online only, and awards will be made subject to funding availability.
For anyone wanting to contribute, Star-C has established an Eviction Relief Fund GoFundMe page. Of course, donations may be made to Star-C for its ongoing programs at any time.
About Star-C Programs: Star C’s mission is to improve the education system by offering community-building programs in affordable apartment communities near under-performing 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 percent 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 all over again with each move, sometimes enrolling in several schools in a single academic year.