Baltimore County and United Way of Central Maryland have partnered to help prevent evictions in vulnerable communities through the Strategic Targeted Eviction Prevention (STEP) pilot program.
The STEP Program is a first-of-its-kind effort in Maryland, providing $4M in rental assistance to just over 900 households across Baltimore County.
“We are doing all we can to promote housing stability and support families who are struggling with their rent, which is especially important during the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “Thanks to this innovative partnership with United Way of Central Maryland, we will be able to move quickly to help families in need.”
“Our data showed that 30-40 million renters nationwide faced the possibility of eviction at the end of 2020. This partnership with Baltimore County is allowing us to target the most vulnerable households in our communities,” said Franklyn Baker, president and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland. “With continued layoffs and the cumulative effects of financial disruptions, this program comes just in time to help us keep more families in their homes and to continue our fight for stable, secure housing for all.”
The program is funded through a combination of state and local CARES Act Coronvirus Relief Fund dollars and provides between 3 and 9 months of past-due rent for vulnerable households who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The STEP program – unlikely traditional rent relief programs – does not require tenants to apply individually, but rather bundles large numbers of past-due accounts for preventing evictions in bulk. The pilot focsed on large Class C and D apartment complexes, which typically involve households most at risk of eviction.
The County and United Way of Central Maryland used local data to target Baltimore County communities facing structural poverty and have the highest risk of housing instability, food insecurity, and impact from reported COVID-19 cases. The pilot program is focused on ZIP codes in Essex, Halethorpe, Dundalk, Parkville, Gwynn Oak, Windsor Mill, Owings Mills, Middle River, and Rosedale.
As a result of combined outreach efforts, United Way of Central Maryland and Maryland Multi-Housing Association (MMHA) recruited 23 management companies with 91 properties in the priority ZIP codes to participate in the pilot program. In order to participate, landlords agreed to forgive 20 percent of the past due rent, waive all fees and costs, and dismiss already filed eviction complaints.