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Madison City Council approves Dane Core 2.0 program for rental assistance

Madison City Council approves Dane Core 2.0 program for rental assistance

Evictions loom (copy)

Marissa Brown, 22, of Fitchburg, left, fills out paperwork with Sheray Wallace of the Meadowood Health Partnership at Meadowood Park in Madison earlier this year. Wallace's group is among several locally that are working to help tenants, and is now part of the Dane Core 2.0 program.

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Despite the end of the federal order banning evictions, local housing assistance for renters and landlords is still available.

The City Council approved Dane Core 2.0, a group of organizations providing resources to people struggling to meet their rent obligations — as well as offering help to landlords — earlier this week.

The program is designed to help prevent evictions and keep those who are housing insecure in their homes. At the same time, it aims to ensure landlords are not left in the lurch in terms of receiving the funds vital to their ability to provide housing.

Making sure landlords are helped is one of the more underreported and critical parts of the program. Without rent income, they simply won’t be able to continue providing housing.

“They’ve not been forgotten by us,” said the city's community development director Jim O’Keefe. “We’ve been aware of that from the very beginning. The goal of this program is to prevent evictions and to preserve housing stability. ... Landlords have as much at stake as the renters. So this program requires them to actually come together in this application process.”

Dane Core 2.0 is the next iteration of the Dane Core program operating since February, which used money from a local emergency rental assistance program. Under the original program, the Tenant Resource Center was the sole recipient of the funding and was charged with providing assistance to housing insecure people.

Having only one organization basically hold the checkbook was ultimately not popular among other grassroots organizations, many of whom felt that they do the same, if not more comprehensive, work than that of TRC.

O’Keefe said the City Council and other organizations expressed concerns about that setup which led to the Community Development Division to create a database that would allow multiple community partners to be involved in the work.

“The Community Development Division conducted a request for proposal process and invited community organizations that wanted to be part of this work to submit applications, and then we selected the list which just got approved by City Council on Tuesday night,” he said.

The city of Madison will partner with the African Center for Community Development, Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Meadowood Health Partnership, Nehemiah Community Development Corporation/FOSTER of Dane County and the Tenant Resource Center. Urban Triage will continue to administer program benefits for households who live in communities within Dane County but outside of the city of Madison.

“It’s really the continuation of this same rental assistance program to help any renters and their landlords that have had difficulty meeting rent obligations,” O’Keefe said. “Some of those organizations are just doing outreach and connecting the communities they work with to the Core 2.0 program. Others are doing that plus evaluating the applicants and making payments for them, and are in the process from the beginning to the end.”

About $1.7 million in funding is being used to expand the city’s eviction defense program which will provide services through collaborations between the Tenant Resource Center, the UW Madison Neighborhood Law Clinic, Legal Action of Wisconsin and Community Justice, Inc., and will be available to qualifying people who are in Dane County and have an eviction trial scheduled.

Which is why, O’Keefe said, it is important to point out that even though the period for the federal moratorium on evictions has been lifted, it does not mean that there will necessarily be mass evictions — as long as people in the public are made aware of these resources.

“It’s not clear the extent to which there remain households that either need additional assistance or have yet to access the program,” O’Keefe said. “The recent lifting of the eviction moratorium probably provided further motivation if it was needed but I think it's kind of understood that there are some households that have not accessed this program.”

Since February, the Core program has processed over 14,000 applications and provided over $13 million of rental assistance to the community.

Moving forward in Core 2.0, rental assistance will be provided for three months, in addition to covering back rent that is owed. It is not known how long Dane Core 2.0 will be implemented, but the city is confident that it will continue into 2022, if not longer.

In her blog on Wednesday, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said this work is vital to keeping people in their homes.

“Our goal for Dane Core 2.0 is to help ensure household stability for people experiencing financial hardships and to prevent evictions,” Rhodes-Conway said. “An eviction is much more than a move across town; it can be a life altering event that negatively affects many aspects of a tenant’s life. Once a renter has an eviction on their record, their ability to find a new home becomes much more difficult, options more limited.”

Core 2.0 is expected to launch in mid-September and the city plans on releasing more information on it in the coming days. People experiencing hardship are still asked to continue applying for assistance at the Tenant Resource Center website.

“I cannot stress enough — if you are a property owner or a renter in need of rental assistance, there is funding available to help!” Rhodes-Conway said. “Please take advantage of it.”

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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