Amid Slow Rollout, Senate Orders Changes to HOPE Rental Assistance Program
Bill requires program to accept applications from landlords on behalf of tenants, cover hotel costs with federal funds
Federal rules already allowed these options, but NC chose not to adopt them
Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Senate today passed legislation to allow landlords to apply to the HOPE rental assistance program on behalf of tenants and to require the program to cover hotel costs for eligible families.
Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson) said, “The changes in this bill will improve the program. State and local leaders should implement them quickly and avoid the temptation to find excuses for why it can’t be done.”
The changes come as state and local leaders struggle to quickly distribute the federal rental assistance aid they’re tasked with administering.
Sen. Edwards continued, “It’s a tale as old as time with these emergency assistance programs: The federal government sends a pile of money to the state with a bunch of confusing rules, and administrators end up spending more time worried about the complications than finding creative solutions to overcome them.”
The legislation directs state and local administrators to allow landlords to submit aid applications on behalf of tenants. That arrangement is permissible under federal rules, but Gov. Cooper’s office chose not to provide that option when it set up the program.
The rental assistance application is seven pages long and requires applicants to submit a number of documents, including their lease. Landlords may be better positioned to locate and organize some of the required documents, which may be in their possession. Tenants would still need to participate in the application process, but the proposed change allows landlords to take the lead.
With the eviction moratorium coming to an end, and with some landlords unable to make mortgage payments without rental income, legislators believe the proposed changes will make evictions less likely and improve program uptake.
Other changes ordered in the legislation are options that have not been implemented though they are permissible under federal rules:
- Require the HOPE program to apply to families living in hotels/motels;
- Include late fees in rent owed to landlords;
- Accept applications for utility payments only.