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Michigan announces $50 million for rental assistance, experts say that is not nearly enough

red for rent sign in front of house
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Michigan will put $50 million towards paying back rent and keeping residents in their homes during the COVID-19 crisis.

The program launches on July 16 and will pay for rent incurred after March 1. It will serve residents living within the median income for their area.

Kelly Rose is with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. She said she expects the program will help roughly 25,000 households.

“We’re trying to make sure people can stay in their homes during this critical time,” Rose said.

In order to qualify, landlords will have to waive up to 10% of the rent and any late fees. Rose called that a “fair deal” for landlords, who otherwise might be losing 100% of that rent.

Across the state, some 19% of residents report being housing insecure according to U.S. Census Bureau data - meaning they either did not pay last month’s rent or mortgage or are unsure they can pay next month’s.

Jim Schaafsma is an attorney with the Michigan Poverty Law Program. He said based on Fair Market Rent amounts in the state if just 63,000 of the state’s lowest-income renters get assistance for one month it would cost $56 million.

“I think that illustrates how quickly that money will go and how short it is,” he said. “I don’t mean to diminish $50 million but I think that illustration shows how enormous that need will be.”

Schaafsma said addressing the scale of the need in Michigan will cost much more.

“You multiply that $56 (million) by 6 months and you’re up to $330 million and that’s for only one small part of the rental market. I hate to throw out a number like a billion dollars but probably at least $500 million to begin to address the problem.”

Schaafsma said Illinois and Pennsylvania have appropriated $396 and $175 million, respectively, towards housing assistance programs.

Kelly Rose, with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, acknowledged it is possible the funding will be used quickly, but the state is hopeful additional federal dollars will be made available.

Michigan’s eviction moratorium is currently set to expire on July 15.

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