This summer, at meetings in Phoenix and Tucson, the Arizona Department of Housing (“ADOH”) sought public input regarding its proposed Eviction Prevention Program. The Program is designed to combat the rising number of evictions occurring throughout the State of Arizona. Last year, in Pima County alone 13, 312 eviction actions were filed and almost 4,000 Writs of Restitution/Eviction were issued to tenants who did not move out after an eviction order was entered against them. ADOH’s presentation emphasizes the breadth of issues caused by these eviction rates by quoting from sociologist Matthew Desmond’s book “Evicted”: “Eviction isn’t just a condition of poverty; it’s a cause of poverty…” and “a cause of residential instability, school instability [and] community instability.”
In response ADOH has set aside $2 million as initial funding for its proposed three-prong eviction prevention program: (1) Referral, (2) Financial Assistance, and (3) Legal Aid Services. Under the “Referral” prong ADOH intends to establish a toll-free telephone number that will refer callers to applicable resources. The two primary resources also will be the two remaining prongs of the program: “Financial Assistance” and “Legal Aid Services.” The “Financial Assistance” prong will make immediate financial assistance available to Qualifying Tenants facing an impending eviction. The proposal states that “Qualifying Tenants” are those tenants whose household incomes are at or below 60% of the area’s average median income and who have received a five-day notice of eviction due to non-payment of rent. After being referred to a designated entity, the tenant will be interviewed to determine their program eligibility. Thereafter each eligible tenant will receive immediate financial assistance to prevent the eviction. Under the third prong, eligible tenants will be referred to a local entity for free or reduced-price Legal Aid Services regarding various legal issues. For instance, a tenant who is having difficulties with their landlord due to the landlord’s failure to provide reasonable accommodations for the tenant’s disability or a tenant who is confronted with unsanitary or uninhabitable living conditions will be referred to a lawyer help to solve those issues. In Pima County, tenants will be referred to Southern Arizona Legal Aid or Step Up to Justice. A copy of ADOH’s presentation regarding the program is available on ADOH’s website at https://housing.az.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/Eviction-Prevention-PPT.pdf. The period for public comment on the Eviction Prevention Project Proposal ended on August 24, 2018. It is anticipated that the final version of the program will be available for use by Arizona tenants soon.