Cleveland, Cuyahoga County To Offer Millions In COVID-19 Rent Aid

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County plan to help renters who have lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A neighborhood street pictured in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood in 2017.
Cleveland and Cuyahoga County plan to help renters who have lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A street pictured in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood in 2017. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland are planning millions of dollars in aid for tenants who haven't been able to pay their rent during the coronavirus pandemic, just as the city’s housing court begins to accept eviction filings after a three-month pause.

The county is cuing up $6.8 million in eviction relief, and the city plans another $11.3 million. The nonprofit CHN Housing Partners will manage the aid for both local governments, aiming to launch the program in July.

“There is a real issue with working folks who are out of work facing the possibility of loss of their housing, really through no fault of their own,” Paul Herdeg, the county’s deputy chief economic development officer, told county council Monday. “Because the shutdown of the economy for several months has just totally disrupted their household budgets.”

As states lift pandemic restrictions and courts reopen, housing advocates fear a wave of evictions could be looming. Cleveland Housing Court began scheduling eviction hearings again after halting most proceedings in March, but has set a limit of 125 filings per day.

Cuyahoga County estimates about 8,500 tenants could benefit from the county’s funding, Herdeg said. The program, which is awaiting council’s approval, would cover a tenant’s rent for up to three months, paying the money directly to landlords.

“It’s to get people caught up so that as they go forward, and hopefully return to their jobs, that they’ll be able to go forward without being in eviction court, without losing their housing,” Herdeg said.

CHN Assistant Director Kate Monter Durban called the project “enormous,” telling county council her organization would need to hire six to eight more staff members to help administer it.

“In my 30-some years in community development and affordable housing, I think this is probably the most significant challenge we’ve ever seen in terms of the housing stability of people in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County,” she said.

The county is limiting its aid to tenants who make up to 120 percent of the area’s median income — a ceiling of about $90,000 a year for a family of four, Herdeg said.

Cuyahoga County will fund its program with $5 million from its allocation of federal coronavirus relief money, plus another $1.8 million in community development block grant dollars. Cleveland’s rental assistance comes from a block grant awarded through the federal CARES Act.

The nonprofit housing agency EDEN will help CHN manage rental aid in Cleveland.

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