The federal moratorium on evictions has been extended through the end of July. That means tenants will have until July 31, instead of June 30, to get their rent payments in order without getting ousted from their housing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced the eviction moratorium last September, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through homeless shelters and other congregate living. The agency has extended the order several times and said this extension will be the last.
Tyson Cox, who manages properties in Kenai and Soldotna under AK Rentals, said the moratorium hasn’t changed much for him, since he doesn’t do a lot of evictions anyway. But he has been directing his tenants who’ve struggled during COVID-19 toward the millions in federal dollars available to renters.
“Ten to 12 percent of my current tenants — we have received a check for three months of rent toward the AHFC rent relief program that is using federal funds," he said.
Landlords say federal rent relief dollars have been a big help. The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation has distributed several rounds of rent relief, most recently a program to cover a year’s worth of rent and utility assistance.
AHFC received more than 30,000 applications for that rent relief program — nearly a third of all rental households in the state, according to the organization. AHFC said more than 25,000 of those applications met eligibility criteria for its rent relief program.
Cox said the program helped some tenants stay on top of payments.
"Our tenants are either keeping up with them or they’re communicating with me and we’ve made arrangements," he said.
But the federal aid has been somewhat slow to reach landlords’ accounts. That’s been true nationwide and has some worrying that help won’t reach tenants in time.
Even though Alaska's program closed this spring, the organization is still processing applications. It said it’s made payments for more than half its applications.
AHFC spokesperson Stacy Barnes said the organization is going through the highest-priority renters first — or those who are low income or have been unemployed for an extended period of time. She said the vast majority of people who applied to the program met that criteria.
Cox said that delay time has probably been more stressful for tenants than for his company.
“It affects us, of course, but it isn’t going to break us at the moment, as long as that does come in at some point," he said.
Steven Rouse is executive director of Kenai Peninsula Housing Initiatives, a Homer-based nonprofit with affordable housing complexes across the peninsula.
He agrees that the federal relief has been helpful.
"We recognize that those funds are going to go away," he said. "And we do what we can to keep our tenants in touch with other organizations that help them find jobs and things of that nature.”
Barnes said AHFC is evaluating whether it will do another round of its rent relief program.
At the same time, there’s a shortage of rental homes in the area. Cox said he doesn’t have any properties available at the moment and has raised rents in some cases.
Building materials are also expensive nationwide. Rouse said he’s noticed that locally.
“There has been astronomical inflation across the board in every aspect of building materials," he said. "And, consequently, in maintenance materials, as well”
His organization is limited in how much rent it can charge. So he said KPHI won’t be raising its rents in most cases.