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Housing Advocates Sweeten The Deal For Landlords To Rent To Homeless Tenants

View from the hilltop at Carver Pond Apartments on Meriwether Drive in Durham, North Carolina
Ildar Sagdejev

Housing advocates in the Cape Fear region are offering landlords an incentive to help end homelessness. Those who register to rent to a homeless tenant will be guaranteed up to $2,000 in case the tenant breaks the lease or damages the property.

More than 1,000 people experience homelessness in the Wilmington area every year, according to Cecelia Peers of the Tri-County Homeless Interagency Council. Many have poor credit or have faced eviction, which makes them less attractive than other applicants, said Peers. Still, only a few landlords have joined the program since March.

“It is a really tight housing market and so despite having the funds available, landlords still have a really great selection of tenants,” Peers said. “So I imagine the funds might not be as appealing as we thought they are.”

However, Peers said it's possible that many landlords and property managers simply don't know this option is available. Now, the Interagency Council is stepping up efforts to get the word out.

Peers says people experiencing homelessness don't make better or worse tenants overall. She said similar
incentive programs around Durham and Charlotte have rarely needed to distribute the risk mitigation funds to jilted.

Kadie Cela is a social worker with the Good Shepherd Center, one organization that's helping to administer the risk mitigation funds.

“All of us have had a point in our life when we've needed a second chance on something, and the community that this program is geared toward is a community that definitely needs a second chance,” Cela said.

Cela said all clients in this Landlord Incentive Pilot Program will have access to a caseworker for the life of a one-year lease. Good Shepherd Center is one of several local partner organizations authorized to distribute the funding to landlords in Brunswick, Pender, New Hanover, and Onslow counties.

“We're not just issuing them a $2,000 check when they move in,” Cela said. “We're saying ‘We can help up to $2,000 in lost income or damages done to the property if that individual doesn't work out’.”

Cela adds that anyone who renews a tenant after a year will receive a $500 bonus. The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency has put up $25,000 dollars for this incentive.

Interested landlords and property managers can call Kadie Cela at 910-362-0292 x104. The deadline for the Cape Fear program is July 15th.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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