As the nation was going through economic turmoil and the city’s unemployment reaching historic highs, at least 1,899 residents have also faced eviction threats from their landlords.

In a newsletter, Mayor Justin Wilson noted that from last July to this April, there were 514 eviction judgements in the city and 1,128 evictions that were pursued but eventually dropped or dismissed. There are 257 cases pending.

On the bright side, Wilson also noted that 845 residents were assisted by the city’s outreach efforts at the courthouse, and more were aided with the city’s rental assistance program.

“The City has assisted 3,458 households with $9.9 million of emergency rent and mortgage assistance,” Wilson said. “Our residents have received another $7 million in rental assistance funds through the Virginia Rent Relief Program.”

Most of that funding has come from local, state and federal funding, but Wilson said the city has also gotten support from churches and non-profits like Christ Episcopal, St. Paul’s Episcopal, St. Vincent de Paul, Casa Chirilagua and ALIVE!.

“We have had landlords who have partnered with the City to keep their tenants housed and a General District Court that has been committed to assisting throughout this process,” Wilson said. “While these efforts have not been perfect, the partnerships that have been developed, expanded and exercised have been absolutely crucial in keeping our residents housed and maintaining family stability during a horrific time for our community.”

Last year, residents in the West End and Arlandria protested against evictions and called for a rent freeze.

A CDC moratorium on evictions is set to continue through the end of June, but the moratoriums have loopholes and requirements that mean evictions have continued regardless.

According to the city website:

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has extended the Foreclosure and Eviction Moratorium for FHA-insured mortgages through June 30, 2021, and provides a 180-day extension to the deadlines for the first legal action and the reasonable diligence time frame from the date of the moratorium expiration.

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Morning Notes

Beyer Rails Against Congressional Republicans — “I’m really sick of whining about ‘canceling’ from rich and powerful Republicans who tried to cancel our democracy.” [Twitter]

Deadline Extended for Landlords to Apply for Relief Program — The deadline for landlords to apply for the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program, to cover overdue rent or mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been extended to March 1. Applications that have not yet been submitted can now include requests to cover rent payments through February 2021. Previously submitted applications are also eligible to include rent due in February through a contract amendment process.” [City of Alexandria]

City Council Affirms Commitment to Racial and Social Equity — “On Jan. 23, the Alexandria City Council unanimously adopted a resolution to acknowledge racial inequity in the past and present, and commit to adopting practices and policies that promote racial and social equity.” [Zebra]

City Councilwoman Amy Jackson Announces Run for Reelection — “I AM running for Re-election! With your support, I look forward to serving my hometown in this capacity for another term. Any contribution at any level helps! Thank you! #AlexandriaVA” [Twitter]

Alexandria Police Are Hiring — “Interested in becoming an Alexandria Police Officer? The first step is to take a written test. We have a few spots open for the next test on January 30th. Click the link below to start the process to become one of Alexandria’s finest.” [Twitter]

Power Outage Affects Some ACPS Teachers Tuesday — “Alert 1/26/2021 12:56 p.m.: There is currently an internet outage on the east coast that is impacting some of our staff. Please be aware as some teachers may not be able to connect to classes this afternoon.” [Twitter]

‘Groundswell’ Art Installation Coming to Waterfront Park — “A new art installation called Groundswell, featuring about 130 wood pilings in various heights, will adorn Waterfront Park in Old Town this spring.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s Weather — “Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High 43F. Winds NNW at 10 to 15 mph. Overcast (in the evening). Low near 30F. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Teacher – Head Start — “The Teacher creates, maintains, and manages an attractive, warm, and challenging learning environment for young children, incorporating developmentally appropriate learning activities that meet the needs of the group as well as those of individual children. The Teacher collaborates with all staff to facilitate the utilization of needed services to the children and their families. The Teacher is responsible for keeping accurate reports and records for each child and ensuring that all of the necessary forms are completed and properly maintained.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Drug Take Back Day is October 24 — “Safely dispose of your unused and expired medicines during Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Drop off locations will be available at APD Headquarters, Fire Station 210, and the Neighborhood Pharmacy of Del Ray.” [Twitter]

Council Approves Real Estate Tax Deferral — “Yesterday Council approved a resolution providing for a ‘hardship deferral’ option for payment of Alexandria’s second half real estate tax payment. Upon request, this allows an individual taxpayer to defer payment of the November 16th payment until March 1.” [Twitter]

Online Job Fair October 22 — “Attention job seekers and employers! Register now for JOB-TOBER, a free regional online job fair on October 22, 2-6 p.m.” [Twitter]

Impacted Alexandria Landlords Can Get Financial Assistance — “Landlords can now apply to receive financial assistance for current and past-due rental payments dating back to April 1, 2020 on behalf of their tenants who qualify for the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program.” [Twitter]

Brewski’s Barkhaus Opens — “While dogs are not allowed directly in the restaurant area, there are plenty of spaces for them to hang out and make friends in the indoor and outdoor play areas.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s Weather — “Mainly cloudy (during the day). High 71F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. A few clouds from time to time (at night). Low 56F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Social Media Specialist — “The Social Media Specialist is a highly motivated, creative individual with experience and passion for developing turn-key online marketing services for our restaurant clients.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria has formed a multi-agency Eviction Prevention Task Force with the goal of lowering evictions and helping impacted residents.

“There have been nearly 20K unemployment claims in Alexandria since the beginning of the pandemic,” tweeted Mayor Justin Wilson. “Keeping our residents housed during this uniquely challenging time has required partnership and new collaboration. More work is required.”

According to the city, the Task Force is made up of representatives from the Department of Community & Human Services, the Office of Housing, the City Attorney’s Office, the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office and community partners from Legal Services of Northern Virginia, Christ Church and emergency financial providers.

“The task force is collecting and sharing data and working to understand the local eviction landscape; identifying and resolving gaps in eviction prevention services; and engaging stakeholders to address this crisis,” according to the city. “The group is also seeking input from and collaboration with owners of rental properties. To submit input or inquire about opportunities to collaborate, email [email protected]

Throughout the spring and summer, residents facing eviction protested around the city. But last month, the Supreme Court of Virginia did not extend the moratorium on eviction proceedings.

Last month, the city announced a second round of emergency one-time payment of $1,800 to households from Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds.

The City also list the following resources for residents:

HELP WITH RENT PAYMENTS

  • COVID-19 Emergency Rent Relief Assistance Program. If you can’t pay your full rent due to COVID-19 related loss of income, you may be eligible for a one time payment of up to $1,800. City Council has authorized a second payment of up to $1,800 for those households already assisted. The City is continuing to accept applications for a new rent relief program. To learn about the program and eligibility criteria, visit the COVID-19 Emergency Rent Relief Assistance Program. Apply for assistance online or by calling the Office of Housing at 703.746.3100 during city business hours. Please call 703.746.4990 if you would like a hard copy of the application or have further questions. No application fee.
  • Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program. The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) is designed to support housing stability during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing financial assistance, rent or mortgage payments for eligible households. This includes payments past due beginning April 1, 2020. Financial assistance is a one-time payment with opportunity for renewal based on availability of funding and the household’s need for additional assistance and continued eligibility. Learn more about eligibility and documentation requirements | Spanish | Amharic Arabic. To conduct a self-assessment for eligibility, visit dhcd.virginia.gov/eligibility.  To apply in the City of Alexandria, call the DCHS Office of Community Services at 703.746.5700.
  • OCS Rental Assistance Program. The Office of Community Services (OCS) provides rental assistance to eligible, low-income persons facing a housing crisis.  The goal is to help stabilize the household and to prevent the household from becoming homeless.  To request any OCS services, please call the DCHS Customer Call Center at 703.746.5700 for an assessment.

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While a moratorium on evictions is temporarily back in place, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has proposed legislation that could give residents more of a chance to avoid them in the long term.

“This bill is a win-win and will stem the potential tide of evictions in Virginia,” Ebbin said on social media, “and has consensus support from tenants and landlords alike.”

The legislation requires landlords who own more than four rental dwelling units, or more than 10% interest in more than four dwellings, to serve written notice to tenants of the total rent due and offer a payment plan prior to terminating the rental agreement. Under the payment plan, tenants must pay the total amount in equal monthly installments within six months or the time remaining under the rental agreement.

The legislation was introduced last Monday, Aug. 17, and moved to committee discussion on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

If the tenant fails to pay any installment required by the payment plan within five days of the due date, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement.

Tenants who are participating in rent relief programs are explicitly protected under the ordinance. The change is not permanent, however, and is “not enforceable unless activated by executive order during a declared state of emergency.”

The legislation is the latest move in an ongoing back and forth over renters laid off amid record-high unemployment in Alexandria being required to continue making rent payments. Conflict between renters and landlords have led to protests and rental assistance offered by the City of Alexandria.

The bill was introduced by Ebbin and state Sen. John Bell, and is cosponsored by State Senators Barbara Favola, Jenn McClellan and Jennifer Boysko.

 

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Morning Notes

New Virginia Majority Wants to Suspend Evictions to April 2021 — “Do you live in SD-39 (parts of Alexandria, southern Fairfax County & northern Prince William County)? Your community needs YOU to urge Senator George Barker to support legislation to stop evictions in Virginia through April 30, 2021.” [Facebook]

Beyer Continues Daily Stream of Anti-Republican/Trump Social Messaging — “Still thinking about when Trump wanted to inject people with bleach.” [Twitter]

ACPS Looking for Volunteer Athletic Coaches — “T.C. Athletic Dept is working with coaches who would like to volunteer their time to start outside conditioning days for our athletes. We are polling parents of athletes to gather info so that it can be used to make our final decision.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Fire Department Hiring This Fall — “The next recruitment process for the Alexandria Fire Department is scheduled to begin this Fall!” [Twitter]

City Recognizes ‘Be Kind to Humankind Week’ — “Social support is exceptionally important for maintaining good physical and mental health.” [Facebook]

Flu Shots Available at Giant Food Stores — “Standard flu shots as well as high dose flu vaccines for customers over the age of 64 are available.” [Patch]

Today’s Weather — In the morning: “Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 94F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph.” At night: “Partly to mostly cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 69F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Floral Manager — “Designs and fashions live, cut, dried, and artificial floral and foliage arrangements for events such as holidays, anniversaries, weddings, parties, and funerals. Responsible for processing/ packaging/ stocking/ maintaining floral products according to standards, cleaning work areas, providing customer service unloading stock, and reloading salvage.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

COVID-19 Cases up 21 to 3,186 in Alexandria — “The latest update from the City on COVID-19: Positive tests up 21 to 3,186 in the City 7-day Positivity Rate steady at 5.8% 0 new hospitalizations Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]

Ebbin Bill Would Require Landlords Offer Tenants Payment Plans — “Senator John Bell and my bill to require landlords to offer payment plans to tenants who miss a payment due to COVID-19 rather than evicting them reports unanimously from the General Laws committee. This bill is a win-win and will stem the potential tide of evictions in Virginia, and has consensus support from tenants and landlords alike.” [Facebook]

Irish Festival Goes Virtual — “The Alexandria Irish Festival, an annual tradition promoting Irish heritage, won’t happen in person this year due to the pandemic. Instead, the festivities will go virtual for the first time on Saturday, Aug. 29.” [Patch]

Pizza Restaurant Opens in Del Ray — “The site, 2419 Mt. Vernon Ave., has been home to several restaurants in recent years.” [Alex Times]

Today’s Weather — During the day, mostly cloudy skies; a stray shower or thunderstorm is possible; high near 85F; winds S at 5 to 10 mph. In the evening, isolated thunderstorms, then cloudy skies overnight. Low 71F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%. [Weather.com]

New Job: Reconstruction Estimator — “Review and evaluate cost estimates, communicates with team members regarding new and current projects. Prepare estimates and cost in detail for all products, ensure timely completion of estimates and rebuild jobs, establish and maintain working relation with homeowners and adjusters. Strong understanding of residential and commercial process.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria-based New Virginia Majority and Tenants & Workers United on Wednesday continued their push for increased funding for Virginia’s Rent and Mortgage Relief Program.

Thomas Assefa, the organizing director for New Virginia Majority, said that tens of thousands of Virginians will be evicted from their homes. New Virginia Majority is requesting that the Governor increase funding for the rent and mortgage relief plan to the tune of $1 billion. The organizations also say that the governor can use his authority to stop evictions.

“The $50 million in the Virginia Rent and Relief Mortgage Program is not enough,” Assefa said. “There are close to 3 million renters in Virginia… and hundreds of thousands of tenants who face evictions.”

Ana Martinez of South Fairfax has lived in the area for 20 years, and in April spent six days in the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. Her husband got sick, too, and now that he has recovered he is unable to find work. Martinez is now three months behind on her rent and other bills, and said that when she was met with a wall of bureaucracy when she tried reaching out to Fairfax County Coordinated Services Planning regarding the funds.

“These are difficult times for us,” Martinez said.

Martinez isn’t alone: unemployment in Alexandria has remained high even after the state moved into the third phase of reopening.

Assefa said that such confusion regarding the program is being felt across Virginia.

Northam announced the $50 million program last month. Funds from the CARES Act are distributed to nonprofit organizations and then turned over to landlords to cover lost rent. However, Assefa said that the program needs improvements, like a 24-hour hotline with multilingual assistance, a faster turnaround for payments and the weekly release of data to show how much has been awarded and where.

According to the program website:

The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) is designed to support and ensure housing stability across the commonwealth during the coronavirus pandemic. Depending on availability of funds and household need, the RMRP may provide financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments for eligible households. This includes financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments past due beginning April 1, 2020 and onward. Financial assistance is a one-time payment with opportunity for renewal based on availability of funding and the household’s need for additional assistance and continued eligibility.

Additionally, as previously reported, earlier this month Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring stated that lower courts can grant continuances on evictions and that there are a number of state and federal protections in place so that people can stay in their home during the pandemic.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Sami Bourma doesn’t know what he’s going to do. At 2 p.m. today, the unemployed father of two children and resident at Southern Towers had an eviction hearing at the Alexandria Courthouse.

Two hours prior to that, Bourma and a number of his friends and neighbors stood outside the courthouse in Old Town and, for the second time this month, protested in asking Governor Ralph Northam to cancel evictions.

“I had three jobs before the pandemic, organizing for my local Union 23, as a cook and as an Uber driver,” Bourma told ALXnow. “How can I pay the rent if I don’t have an income? I don’t know what I’m going to do. That’s why I’m protesting today.”

Last week, the city also approved additional funds to help poor residents pay their rent while unemployment in the city remains high.

On Tuesday (July 14), Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring stated that lower courts can grant continuances on evictions, and that there are a number of state and federal protections in place so that people can stay in their home during the pandemic.

“The pandemic has taken a very real toll on Virginia’s economy and tens of thousands of Virginians, many of whom are hourly workers, have found themselves without a source of income during these difficult times,” Herring said. “We are still in the middle of a state of emergency and a public health crisis and it’s so important for Virginians to be able to stay in their homes to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe.”

Northam’s request to extend the moratorium to later this month was denied by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Jonathan Krall with Grassroots Alexandria was at the protest, and said that the continuances should be granted.

“You shouldn’t be putting people out on the street,” Krall said. “That doesn’t help the economy and doesn’t help the tenants or the landlords. People are starting to get evicted, and this is a major problem.”

Evelin Urrutia, the executive director of Tenants & Workers United, said that the Latino population in the city is hurting.

“We’ve been suffering with a housing problem, and the pandemic just made it worse and we are seeing it happen,” Urrutia said. “We have many families who are behind two or three months on the rent, and they won’t be able to catch up.”

For Bourma, the issue has become one of survival. After speaking with ALXnow, he walked back over to the two dozen protestors and took the megaphone to lead a chant.

“No money, no rent!” he shouted into the megaphone.

Staff photos by James Cullum

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Alexandria is providing the community with more funds to apply for emergency rent assistance.

On July 10, the city announced that it is prioritizing $450,000 from the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program for residents primarily living at or below 50% of the area median income up until July 20. After that time, households making 80% of AMI will be included.

“In addition, households with an unlawful detainer action dated before June 8 will be given top consideration,” notes a city release. “Tenants and homeowners are encouraged to know their rights and responsibilities and pay their rent and mortgages on time if they are able.”

According to the city, the new funds are “in addition to the $4 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds being distributed through the Emergency Rent Relief Assistance Program and $671,500 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds for tenants of affordable housing, both administered by the City’s Office of Housing.”

The governor’s moratorium on rent evictions expired last month, and there have been protests to cancel rents and extend the moratorium throughout the city since the pandemic hit Alexandria. There is another protest scheduled today (Wednesday) at noon at the Alexandria courthouse organized by residents of Southern Towers and the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America.

The city has acknowledged that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color, which will be prioritized with the rent relief.

Residents should take a self-assessment survey to see if they qualify, and then call 703-746-5700 to apply.

Posted by Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America on Saturday, July 11, 2020

Staff photo by James Cullum

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