Alexandria, VA

The City Council voted on Saturday to direct $671,570 in federal funding to provide rent assistance for low-income families in Alexandria.

The catch, however, is that this funding will be used for rental assistance only for those living in the city’s assisted housing developments, like those managed by Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, and including non-profits and set-aside affordable units the city received through the development process.

The $671,570 comes from the recently approved CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. The funding includes $1.1 million in block grants and $585,127 in Home Investment Partnership Program funds.

“Our allocation of regular federal funds this year will be over 1.6 million, the bulk used by housing to support the multifamily rental development program and our home rehab loan program, both targeted to help very low and low-income families,” said Helen McIlvaine, director of the Office of Housing.

McIlvaine said the CARES Act funding will allow the Office of Housing to make payments up to $500 per month on behalf of tenants in low-income housing to landlords. The funding will help an estimated 450 households, she said.

“We feel that this is impactful for future rent repayment burdens when their situation may still be perilous,” McIlvaine said. “We also hope to be able to deploy the money quickly. If we do, we think we would be well-positioned for future grant funds.”

McIlvaine added that the funds do not have any strings attached related to the beneficiary’s legal status, meaning they will be available to residents regardless of their documentation.

There was some worry on the City Council after the PPP loans ran dry, as concerns rose that the same might happen for affordable housing funds.

“I know these are two different pots of money, but we’ve just seen the small businesses run out of money in two weeks,” Councilwoman Amy Jackson said. “That was $350 billion. What do you think the odds are that we will get all of the money we’re asking for and be able to sustain that into the fall? Do we have a plan B?”

McIlvaine said the current $671,570 is already in the pipeline and that the funding should be available within the next 30-45 days, after which the Office of Housing will begin providing assistance. In many cases, McIlvaine said it will just be enough to operate a unit and keep the lights going over the period when rents might not be paid.

“It’s not all we need,” McIlvaine warned, “but it’s a start.”

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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