Tallahassee organization helps renters at risk of eviction

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Thousands of people could be at risk of losing their homes starting Saturday when the federal eviction moratorium expires. This comes as a recent study shows 13 percent of Florida renters are not up to date on their payments.

Advocates say housing insecurity is a deep-rooted problem in Tallahassee and the pandemic only made things worse. When the Tallahassee Housing Authority opened its waiting list for affordable housing vouchers last December, it received more than 9,000 applications in just 30 days.

These 9,000 applicants were all competing for just 66 housing vouchers.

“I expect there will be quite a few people, families, that are going to be out there homeless,” Brenda Williams, executive director of the Tallahassee Housing Authority, said.

She predicts the eviction moratorium’s expiration will hit Tallahassee hard.

“We only received 66 vouchers for you know to help folks out,” she said. “And I don’t think that’s going to be nearly enough.”

THA only opens its waiting list every five years because its supply of vouchers can’t keep up with demand. If renters need assistance, they have to turn elsewhere. Social service organizations like the Emergency Care Help Organization, or ECHO, try to fill this gap.

“Demand is still great, don’t get me wrong,” Freddy Branham, ECHO’s executive director, said. “But we’ve had the resources to distribute.”

Since the pandemic began, ECHO has given out more than $125,000 in rental assistance to approximately 140 families.

“We can look at somebody’s situation today and have a check go out to their landlord at the end of that day,” Branham said.

The federal government has allocated nearly $50 billion in funds for emergency rental assistance. ECHO helps get those dollars into renters’ hands.

Amanda White of the Florida Apartment Association says this kind of rental assistance is the best way to help struggling renters.

“The root cause of this problem is we had a pandemic that shut down economies and made it impossible for individuals who are without work to keep up with their financial obligations,” White said. “So the only real solution here is getting these rental assistance funds out.”

ECHO’s executive director says if you’re a renter who’s worried about possible eviction, call ECHO. The organization works with clients on a case-by-case basis and can connect you to resources. ECHO can be reached at 850-224-3246.

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