By Leah Waters
A program to rehouse people experiencing homelessness is renewing its push to encourage landlords to open their doors, with the lure of guaranteed income and a $1,000 incentive.
Housing Forward set a goal of securing 100 more units of affordable housing by Feb. 28, though the overall need is much greater.
President and CEO Joli Robinson said Dallas and Collin counties’ homeless response system needs more than 4,000 units of affordable housing for the agency to adequately house people without homes.
“For our neighbors who need more support, these housing opportunities come with robust wraparound services through case management that helps promote stability and well-being,” Robinson said.
The 2022 point-in-time survey counted 4,410 homeless people in Dallas and Collin counties, down slightly from 4,570 people in 2021, according to Housing Forward data.
Efforts to find housing for homeless North Texans have stalled in the past year and half while the region’s affordable housing crisis is pricing out residents, disproportionately impacting lower-income households.
Negative stereotypes about low-income renters and a perceived burden of the housing authority payment process contribute to landlords’ unwillingness to accept voucher-holders, according to a study by Dallas-based Child Poverty Action Lab.
Landlords’ screening criteria often prevent low-income households from renting units because of issues like past evictions, Robinson said.
The value of housing vouchers — determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and public housing authorities — often cannot cover rent prices that have soared during the past year, despite an increase in voucher amounts announced by HUD in the fall.
Without enough property owners willing to accept housing vouchers, Robinson said the program could stall before reaching its goal of rehousing 2,700 people by the end of the year.
That’s why Housing Forward and other homeless service nonprofits have created teams that engage with and recruit landlords to participate in the program.
The incentive program guarantees rent for at least a year, pays $1,000 and other fees and provides wraparound services to help tenants comply with the lease.
“Everyone needs a safe place to call home,” Robinson said. “Our neighbors experiencing homelessness face the same challenges as other low-income households — they need help covering the gap between their income and rent.”
Dallas and Collin counties’ homeless response network has housed over 1,611 people through the collaborative $72 million program Dallas R.E.A.L. Time Rapid Rehousing Initiative, according to a community dashboard.
More than 700 people are enrolled, waiting on units.
Housing Forward previously announced a goal to find 500 units by the end of February, but the agency halved the number and sped up the timeline to meet needs more urgently, said Sara Craig, vice president of development and communications.
“We’re so grateful for the property owners and managers who have joined us in this effort to continue making progress and provide a diverse set of housing options across Dallas and Collin counties — we’re calling on more properties to join us.”
Housing Forward’s housing locator team has spent the past year building relationships with property owners and apartment managers, visiting properties and walking landlords through the process of move-ins, inspections and sustained support.
Amanda Fuller, a leasing agent in Dallas, said her property management company saw the need to help house people in D-FW and began learning about the process.
But she said landlords have valid reasons why they might feel discouraged from housing certain tenants, including voucher-holders.
“There is always the hesitation from the time a prospect walks through the door and the time that it takes for housing to approve the applicant, complete the inspection to a final move-in date,” Fuller said.
“The turnaround can be very slow.” she said. “We used to see anywhere from 15-30 days. However, [DHA Housing Solutions for North Texas] has improved greatly on the turnaround time to get these individuals or families placed, typically once it is started we are looking at a turnaround of about 10-14 days.”
Fuller says the housing authority’s website has been updated to make the process easier and to streamline communication.
“You are made aware of dates and times of inspections and who you need to contact if something needs to change,” Fuller said.
More than 180 property owners are working with Housing Forward, which has paid 395 landlord incentives totaling $395,156 using private funds raised to support the rapid rehousing program, Robinson said.
Housing Forward received a three-year, $22.8 million grant from HUD this month to address growing unsheltered homelessness.
In November, the lead agency received a $1.25 million grant from the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund to help divert families from homelessness.
This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas Metro News. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas- at the bottom.