Strategy Saves Money and Earns Praise
Seth Embry, Policy Analyst
As discussed in the May 1, 2019, issue of the Advocate, the topic of evictions is gathering significant attention from researchers, policymakers, and advocates. Princeton professor and Pulitzer Prize winning author Matthew Desmond’s widely praised book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City has spurred policymakers at the local and state levels to take a hard look at how to reduce evictions in their communities. Recently, the Syracuse Housing Authority (SHA) worked with local officials to conduct a pilot program designed to prevent evictions from public housing.
For public housing managers, the financial, familial, and communal costs of evictions are well understood; these unsavory but sometimes necessary tasks are not undertaken carelessly. HA leaders and staff know the terrible disruption and too-often insurmountable pipeline to homelessness an eviction can be. For HAs, evictions are costly as they reduce the likelihood rent arrearages will be paid, necessitate legal expenses, and initiate unit turnover and vacancy loss. HUD regulations allow for the termination of tenancy in three cases: serious or repeated lease violations, when household income exceeds income limits, and for other good cause. Housing authorities (HAs) have significant discretion to define “serious or repeated” and “good cause” in their Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan (ACOP) and to develop internal procedures concerning evictions. While the SHA had carefully developed policies that both complied with applicable regulations and sought to maintain program integrity, agency staff saw room for improvement upon considering how its programs could contribute to solutions to end homelessness.
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