Evictions Down In Alaska
Emergency Rental Assistance and Courts collaboration support tenants and landlords
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Dec. 2, 2021 – While renters struggled with financial impacts of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put in place an eviction moratorium that was extended multiple times throughout the pandemic. On Aug. 26, 2021, the United States Supreme Court ended the moratorium.
Anticipating financial hardship by renters and landlords alike, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation prioritized getting emergency rental assistance payments out as quickly as possible. To date, $191.6 million has been paid and nearly every qualified person who applied for Alaska Housing Rent Relief has had their past due rent and utilities paid.
While challenges to the federal eviction moratorium were being addressed AHFC worked closely with Alaska’s Courts. Applications were verified, payments were issued, and for those in process, a commitment letter was made available to tenants who were encouraged to share it with their landlords. This novel approach provided necessary documentation to both landlords and the Court, confirming that AHFC had funds available to address past due, current, and future rent and utilities up to 12 months.
The Alaska Court System prominently included information about the status of the moratorium and availability of Alaska Housing Rent Relief on its website, and Alaska’s judges are informed of the availability of AHFC’s commitment letter. This solution aids not only the tenant, verifying to the court that financial assistance is forthcoming, but is also crucial for helping landlords stay solvent by eliminating unnecessary and costly court proceedings.
According to Stacey Marz, administrative director of the Alaska Court System, eviction filing rates have remained low after the federal eviction moratorium ended and are less than half what they were in 2019. "In the past four weeks, there have been 85 eviction cases filed across the state," according to Marz, "While in the same time period in 2019, there were 182. The court system was preparing to see an increase in cases after the end of the moratorium, but thankfully that has not come to pass."
A national conversation is increasingly growing momentum about eviction prevention and diversion programs, including this brief from Local Housing Solutions about Preparing for the expiration of COVID-19 eviction moratoria.
“The federal funding allowed us to address critical needs of Alaskans experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Bryan Butcher, AHFC’s CEO/Executive Director. “Too often people forget about the cost of owning and maintaining properties. Landlords know too well about these financial obligations and when their tenants struggle, landlords do too.”
The imminent threat of eviction compounds stress-related issues that may arise in households experiencing financial difficulties. Data confirms there are tremendous emotional and physical benefits to keeping people safely housed during times of stress, especially relevant to the long-term impacts of COVID-19 when many have experienced job loss and reduced incomes. Throughout 2021, AHFC has remained committed to mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 and developing solutions to keep Alaskans safely housed.
In addition to specifically targeting elements of eviction diversion, AHFC’s efforts include implementing Safety Net – providing temporary rent reductions to families living in public housing or with a housing voucher through increased federal subsidy; suspending late rent fees for public housing residents; and forbearance for AHFC mortgage holders.
“Stable housing is essential for public health, financial stability, and economic recovery. Our simple, people-centric commitment letter has proven to be highly effective in reducing pandemic evictions,” said Butcher. “Many households that were in crisis at the start of the year can go into the holiday season with less fear of eviction and look to 2022 for a fresh start.”
AHFC estimates that most eligible applicants will continue to receive Alaska Housing Rent Relief through spring 2022. Looking ahead, AHFC is continuing its efforts to develop new programs and services that are responsive to the diverse housing needs statewide.
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation is a public corporation providing Alaskans access to safe, quality and affordable housing through residential financing, energy efficiency, public housing and more. Since 1986, Alaska Housing has contributed more than $2.1 billion to the State of Alaska.