CLEVELAND, Ohio – Some Cuyahoga County landlords say they’re growing impatient waiting for millions of dollars in rental assistance payments promised but not received, but CHN Housing Partners assures the money is coming.
County Council this week approved $ 45.5 million in new federal funding to help keep tenants in their homes amid ongoing hardships related to the pandemic, and as soon as that money is received, CHN is ready to start cutting checks, spokeswoman Laura Boustani said. They’ve already approved over $ 4.5 million in payments, she said.
“We were waiting for this vote,” Boustani said. “The story is that now the money is coming, the money is definitely coming.”
That promise feels empty to East Cleveland property owner Anastasia Nagel who has not received rent from one of her tenants since October 2021. They applied for rental assistance and were approved in March for $ 6,487.50 to cover backpay and future rent payments through the end of the lease this month, and Nagel said she was told several times the check was in the mail, but it never came.
At one point she said she was advised to file for eviction to speed up the process, as CHN prioritizes cases with pending court dates, but that did not help either. Nagel said she emailed the office Monday asking for some kind of funding commitment to stop the final eviction hearing this week, but no one replied, and the judge granted the eviction.
Now, she has other tenants who may benefit from the assistance, but she said she does not trust the payment will come and can not afford to fall thousands more dollars behind.
“I know the impact evictions can have on someone and it’s not my goal as a property manager to ever bring that reality on someone,” Nagel said. “But I’m at a point where I have to be able to pay my own bills.”
Her property manager, who oversees 350 units for multiple owners in the region, said he’s waiting on about $ 40,000 in payments for six tenants, all of whom have evictions pending. Some of the owners are retired or on fixed incomes and are suffering alongside tenants, he said, asking for anonymity because he fears retaliation.
“They’re convinced (the money is) not coming,” he said of the owners. “And I’m just one property owner.”
Cleveland.com reached out two eviction law firms and three prolific property management companies in the area Friday with questions about whether they were experiencing similar problems, but only two companies responded.
Laird Wynn, president of Cleveland Property Management Group, LLC., Said the assistance program has worked better than expected, noting they’ve received over $ 300,000 in payments for roughly 126 residents. Another 12 payments are outstanding, most of them having been recently approved. Only two of the pending payments date back to 2021, he said.
“For the most part, they’ve been dramatically faster than most government entities that deal with this stuff,” Wynn said.
James Wise, co-founder and CEO of the Holton-Wise Property Group, agreed, saying the program has worked for them. He understands that government assistance can be slow to arrive and “sure it would be nice if it happened quicker,” but he said they have typically received their checks within a few weeks and have never had to evict a tenant who has been approved.
“All told, it’s not a perfect program but nothing ever is,” Wise said. “I think working with CHN is a far better option than eviction for both the tenants and the property owner.”
Owners who do evict forfeit any approved funding, Boustani with CHN warned.
CHN has already paid $ 61 million in rent payments to help roughly 15,000 people avoid eviction in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, but those funds ran out sometime earlier this year, Boustani said. However, they continued to approve new applications, she said, knowing that additional help was on the way, and they’d be able to distribute it quicker once the money arrives.
“It’s not ideal under any circumstance,” Boustani said. “We are a landlord too and we’re feeling the heat from everywhere and we are just begging for patience until we’re able to release the dollars here in a few days.”
Cuyahoga County Deputy Director of Housing and Community Development Sara Parks Jackson said Friday that she’s aware they’re behind in payments, but she expects CHN to receive the money within 10 days.
She stressed that this is money that the state would have forfeited if she hadn’t advocated for more funding based on the area’s need. And while the majority of federal funds have gone to rental assistance, she said, some of it is also paying legal aid for tenants fighting eviction, utilities assistance, and other programs meant to improve housing stability.
“It’s federal money and every now and again we hit a glitch, but it moved forward as quickly as we could move it forward to make sure CHN did not have to stop,” Parks Jackson said, noting that they send monthly reports to the treasury accounting for every dollar spent. “I’m assuring them (landlords), yes, you’re going to get paid.”
In the meantime, Parks Jackson encouraged tenants and landlords to keep applying and be prepared to submit the required paperwork to expedite processing. The county has until the end of the year to commit the funds.
CHN received 1,186 applications last month, officials previously said. Payments can include up to 12 months back rent or up to six months of future assistance. Residents must be income-eligible to qualify and be able to show the financial hardship stems from the pandemic. Information about eligibility and how to apply can be found on CHN’s website.
“We’ve got a great deal of money we’re trying to get out the door,” Parks Jackson said.