From a letter from Saint Paul Public Housing Agency Executive Director Jon Gutzmann:
Since the pandemic began, many households have become delinquent in their rent payments. The St. Paul Public Housing Agency (PHA) recognized this right away and assembled a team of staff members to reach out to residents who were struggling to pay rent. Through the dedication and hard work of the PHA’s Resident Services Department, the PHA was instrumental in securing over $1.4 million in rental assistance for its residents. At least 894 households have been delinquent on rent, some as far back as March 2020, owing the PHA more than $2 million. Some households obtained rent assistance on their own, but to date PHA staff have collectively spent over 2,500 hours assisting over 497 households process the paperwork needed to avoid eviction. This is equivalent to more than one full-time staff person devoted to this work for an entire year.
Only 32 households failed to positively respond to the PHA’s efforts to help before the State of Minnesota’s Eviction Moratorium was lifted on October 12, 2021. PHA staff reached out to those households and offered assistance, averaging 10 contacts per household before the moratorium was lifted. Of those remaining 32 households, eight have already paid their rent due. Fourteen other households have applied for rent assistance, and their Eviction Actions have been put on hold while their applications are processed. One resident’s case was set for a later date due to technical issues they experienced during the Zoom hearing. Only nine households failed to appear in court or otherwise make any arrangement to repay their outstanding balances, resulting in writs of recovery being issued that will allow the PHA to take back the property and rent it to a family in need on the waiting list. Over 9,000 households are on the PHA’s waiting list at this time.
Over 412 residents have already received rental assistance, and many more are awaiting assistance payments from RentHelpMN, the State of Minnesota program established to help low income individuals with rent payments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. PHA staff dedicated an average of six hours of time, per household, assisting residents with the RentHelpMN application process. This effort is far from over. Over 200 PHA residents were newly late on rent this month, and this pattern is likely to persist. Staff continue to provide residents with thorough, targeted assistance applying for rent help. Through this focused effort the PHA seeks to ensure that no resident loses their housing because they cannot pay rent. The rental assistance is available, and the PHA stands by to help any resident obtain this aid. Simultaneously, we will follow HUD regulations and uphold our fiduciary obligations to tax payers who provide the deep rental subsidies that make this housing affordable to very low income people.