A housing resource agency in California is encouraging landlords to house low-income renters with its Landlord Gold Standard program.
The Housing Resource Center of Monterey County (HCR)’s program offers landlords financial assistance that encourages renting to those with the lowest incomes.
It is often hard to get landlords to provide housing to low-income renters, especially those experiencing homelessness. Many landlords are also leery of renting to households with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers or other public rental assistance.
HRC’s program was inspired by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel’s famous “Gold Standard of Service” and its “$2,000 Rule.” Ritz-Carlton employees are allowed to spend up to $2,000 per incident to “rescue the guest experience.” They do not even need a manager’s permission to spend this money for guest satisfaction.
In HRC’s Landlord Gold Standard program, first-time landlords may receive $500 for providing housing to HRC’s homeless clients. Landlords can also receive up to $1,000 for repairs to a unit, whether the damage was caused by an HRC client or someone else.
In addition, landlords can receive up to $1,000 to cover rental arrears. Landlords can receive this support whether the back rent is owed by an HRC client or someone else. Like the Ritz-Carlton policy, HRC staff do not need the permission of management to authorize these payments to landlords.
Alexa Johnson, HRC’s Executive Director, talked about the success of the program on a May 9th housing policy webinar sponsored by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. HRC serves Monterey and San Benito counties. Its mission is to end and prevent homelessness in the communities it serves.
In her presentation, Johnson noted that HRC’s program helps landlords feel more comfortable renting to low-income households. The payments for repairs reduce the risk in housing low-income renters and people experiencing homelessness.
Even though $1,000 may not cover all that former tenants owe in back rent, it shows that HRC is a good partner. It shows that the organization is willing to help small landlords keep up with their own financial obligations, like mortgage payments, utilities, and taxes.
Johnson noted that the Monterey area has skyrocketing rents like much of California. With a limited supply of affordable apartments and huge demand, HRC clients are competing with other renters for decent places to live. Because staff can provide assistance to landlords on the spot, HRC clients are more likely to get the apartments.
HRC’s program also helps homeless and low-income renter households in this process. They keep a list of landlords participating in the program to help clients with their housing searches. They also coordinate and provide support services for their clients. The extra tenant support also encourages landlords to continue renting to low-income households.
HRC also keeps a list of licensed vendors willing to work with the program on the apartment repairs, This ensures that the work is done by licensed tradespeople and is priced fairly. In some cases, the vendors offer some services at a discount.
The Bigger Picture
Although the Landlord Gold Standard program is only available in the Monterey area, it is the kind of program that can be created in communities across the country. It does not take a lot of money to address small repairs, but these small investments have big returns.
A program like this helps more low-income renters find decent, affordable homes and builds long-term relationships with landlords. Other communities can also benefit from setting a “Gold Standard” for landlords willing to provide housing for renters with the lowest incomes.