Lawmakers OK $25 million to prolong rental aid, prevent evictions in Clark County
But plans to help struggling renters in Clark County got a significant boost Wednesday from state lawmakers, who approved allocating $25 million in federal relief funds from the American Rescue Plan to sustain the county’s rental assistance program and prop up the county’s new eviction diversion program.
Kevin Schiller, a deputy county manager in Clark County, told lawmakers on the Interim Finance Committee that those funds would help efforts to address housing insecurity.
“In our world, the human services pandemic has not peaked,” Schiller said. “I think we are two years out from seeing some level of flattening. We're starting to see a little more availability in rental units, but … this is critical infrastructure which we can get out the door to support clients … We have to keep people housed, because if we don't, they're homeless.”
The first portion of the money, $15 million, will be used to supplement funding for the CARES Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), which was launched in the early days of the pandemic to help financially struggling county residents pay their rental housing and utility bills.
Since the program’s inception, Clark County has provided more than $300 million in rental and utility assistance, with a large portion of that money coming from federal Emergency Rental Assistance funding. Tim Burch, human services administrator for Clark County, said those funds have assisted more than 65,000 households since the beginning of the pandemic.
With an extra $15 million added to CHAP, the county expects to have enough funding to help approximately 2,000 households, and to accept applications for assistance through the end of the year, a month past when it originally anticipated closing the program to new applicants.
The other portion of the request approved Wednesday sends $10 million to the Nevada Housing Division to fund the county’s eviction diversion program.
“Eviction diversion, specifically, is really a direct collaboration with the courts,” Schiller said. “We are embedded with those courts. We're embedded with legal aid. We are essentially mediating eviction as kind of your last door in terms of how we intervene.”
Barbara Buckley, executive director of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, described the program as a “game changer.” She highlighted how the funds could help pay landlords, while also going toward relocating those who might be facing eviction, such as seniors or people with disabilities on fixed incomes.
“It gives us time to come up with a solution that keeps the landlord paid and keeps the tenant housed,” she said. “It's a holistic solution that we're piloting, and we hope to bring you data and results next session, so it might be something that's considered as a statewide model.”
State and county officials are also still monitoring the progress of another major investment in affordable housing. In April, lawmakers approved $250 million for a sweeping housing program brought forward by the governor’s office and funded with dollars from the federal American Rescue Plan.
Steve Aichroth, who heads the state’s housing division, which oversees the massive Home Means Nevada initiative, said the division is in the midst of soliciting applications for new development and rehabilitation projects. The division also plans to launch the application process for home ownership and rehabilitation projects this month, but has yet to award any housing projects with funding from the program.
The governor's office plans to bring a money request — an additional $250 million for the affordable housing program from American Rescue Plan funds — to the Interim Finance Committee later this year.