The sound of “last call” took on new meaning for Angie* this month when North Dakota bars and restaurants were ordered to close to on-site patrons in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This close order, effective March 20, signaled a loss of working hours for Angie.
It was like a last call for paychecks and tips that paid for food and rent.
Angie’s anxiety grew as the April 1 due date for rent drew near.
At the advice of a friend, Angie approached Jamie, the Lutheran Social Services property manager at her apartment complex in Devils Lake. During their conversation, tears welled up in Angie’s eyes as Jamie explained that there was a way to reduce her rent.
There are 16 properties managed by LSS Property Management Group where eligible tenants pay a rent based on 30 percent of their adjusted income. Because Angie was already a resident at one of these properties, all Jamie had to do was complete the paperwork to re-certify Angie’s lower wages. The result was that Angie could stay living in her same apartment and her monthly rent payment of $484 was reduced to a much more manageable amount.
“I am so thankful,” says Angie. “I wasn’t aware that I could reach out to someone and get this kind of help. It truly saved my life.”
Communication is key
Jamie stressed that tenants need to talk with their property managers when they have concerns about paying their rent. LSS Property managers also encourage residents to
Over the past couple of weeks, Jamie has processed 11 income recertifications for tenants who live in the LSS Housing properties she manages. This is in addition to many other income re-certifications being completed at other LSS Housing properties across North Dakota due to reduction or loss of income.
“People who work in restaurants and bars, and as housekeepers seem to be hardest hit,” says Jamie. “We are also seeing an increase of housing applications as residential treatment facilities close their doors and reduce services due to the pandemic.”
Keeping residents safe
Keeping residents safe during the pandemic is another concern for LSS Housing managers.
“Residents are reminded to social distance and reduce contact with others, but there is only so much we can do,” Jamie explains. “We have to follow fair housing laws. We cannot restrict people from coming in and going out of the building or congregating with others in their apartments.”
Do you need help?
LSS Housing is here to help individuals and their families thrive by offering safe and affordable
housing options across North Dakota. This is especially important now as the pandemic puts people out of work and struggling to pay for household basics like housing, food and medical care.
Thirty-four of the 38 properties owned or managed by LSS Housing offer reduced or subsidized rents to low- to moderate-income households. Eligibility is determined by the income information potential tenants share on their application. State and federal funders such as HUD, USDA Rural Development and the ND Housing Finance Agency make these reduced rent options possible.
30 percent of Income - Eligible tenants who live in these properties pay a rent based on 30 percent of their adjusted income. Rent is based on their gross rents less possible reductions for daycare and medical expenses (based on age and eligibility requirements).
Affordable - Rent rates for these properties are reduced if an eligible tenant’s gross income falls within county guidelines. These guidelines will vary across the state. Some LSS properties offer a combination of market rate and affordable rent units within the community based on requirements set by the funder of the property.
The remaining four properties owned/managed by LSS Housing in North Dakota charge residents a market-rate rent.
Any LSS Housing resident who has concerns about paying rent, no matter if they have qualified for reduced rent in the past or pay market rate, should talk with their property manager to work out solutions.
“Applications for our income-based and income-eligible housing properties are longer and require more information about a tenant’s financials,” says Rachel Hach, leasing specialist for LSS Housing. “The more accurate information they can us give us, the quicker we can process their application and find them a safe and affordable home.”
Income as well as medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs for childcare, and whether residents are elderly or disabled are just a few of the criteria considered when applying. People who already reside at a property that offers rent assistance can apply to be recertified and receive rent reductions if their income change is due to job losses or other circumstances. LSS Housing also has a tenant-service specialist who can help people with budgeting and creating a workable payment plan.
“We believe that safe and affordable housing is a basic need that must be addressed first for people to thrive physically and emotionally.” says Paulette Paulson, director of LSS Property Management and Housing.
“As a program of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, LSS Housing and has strong connections with community and state agencies that can help people overcome a variety of financial, physical and emotional challenges. The first, and most important step is for residents to communicate their concerns. We are here to help.” – Paulette Paulson, LSS Property Management and Housing
Learn more about LSS Housing and view a list of our properties at www.lsshousing.org.
– By Barbara Pates
*Name has been changed to protect client confidentiality.