2020 has been the year that showed that state elected officials can work well with staff from the executive branch, which, in turn, granted millions of federal dollars to local non-profit organizations and prevented a major housing crisis during a pandemic. 2020 showed that we can achieve so much more by working together. Non-profits cannot do the work alone, and the government alone cannot properly address a major issue in our society.
Utah’s renters affected financially by COVID-19 have been able to access federal rental assistance at unprecedented levels. Utah does not have state rental assistance funds; we rely completely on federal funds. Between July 1st and December 2nd, 5,403 renter households have received rental assistance through the state’s community action network. Additionally, since September, landlords were able to apply for rental assistance on behalf of their tenants through the Landlord Housing Assistance Program (LHAP). By December 1st, almost $8 million was spent from this fund. State lawmakers allocated another $6.5 million for December in LHAP. Salt Lake County allocated $1.47 million to Utah Community Action, which serves Salt Lake County.
The initial CARES Act eviction moratorium protected about 30% of renters living in properties backed by federal funding. It was very difficult for renters to know whether they were covered because it applied only to properties covered by a federally backed mortgage. The CDC eviction moratorium, enacted on September 4th, protected about 96% of renters. But these protections come to an end on December 31st.
The graphic below shows the eviction rates in Utah. The high peak in August is when the CARES Act eviction moratorium ended. The drop in September is when the CDC moratorium was enacted. We are concerned about what will happen in January when the CDC moratorium ends and there is no additional rental assistance to help tenants and landlords.
We are getting down to the wire in spending all of the federal rental assistance funds. We understand that the pipeline of requests will spend out the money. Each community action agency is unique and may have other small pots of money that could be used for rental assistance. Renters must call the community action agency that services their county for rental assistance. If they don’t have funds at that time, please call back or get on a waiting list, if they have one. Utah’s renters must stay on top of this; call back every week and communicate with your landlord. We hope more money will be coming. Direct communication with your landlord about your situation is the most important aspect of keeping you housed. You can find your community action agency by visiting the state’s rent relief web site