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Waiting list for housing assistance triples in Birmingham during pandemic

The Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD) saw a 200% increase year-over-year in need, most requests were for 1-bedroom units
Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 2:46 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Thousands more people have turned to the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD) during the pandemic to help them stay in their homes, or find an affordable place to live.

“This year, it’s over 3,000 people so it’s been a big increase,” explained David A. Northern, Sr., President and CEO, HABD.

By the end of June, 3,384 people were on HABD’s waiting list compared to 1,019 people at the end of June 2020.

“That means there is a number of people that may have lost housing, that needs housing, or thinking they may need housing in the very near future,” said Northern.

Northern has been leading HABD since February, working to protect current residents from eviction while preparing for an even greater demand after evictions begin.

“We’re changing a number of policies related to our preferences to increase our payment standards so we can recruit and retain more landlords, that’s willing to lease to individuals that we serve,” said Northern.

HABD data shows 386 of its families are two months or more behind on their rent. Statewide, 13% of people owe past-due rent or mortgage payments, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“On average, it’s a major increase throughout the country, and it’s a major scare of individuals who need help paying their rent so they wouldn’t get evicted,” explained Northern.

Northern said HABD has used emergency housing vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and funds from the city of Birmingham’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program to ensure current residents won’t be evicted. He said the long-term need is more options for affordable housing.

“We will need an increase in hard units, inventory and that’s one of the things that we have been sitting and working with the city and various community development departments about, and we’re looking to put a plan in place that is holistic,” said Northern.

The federal eviction moratorium ends July 31 and the National Equity Atlas estimates 135,000 households in Alabama are behind on their rent. There are several programs open to help renters and landlords, but WBRC FOX6 found many of these programs are underused.

Jefferson County’s Emergency Rental Assistance program has paid out $1.7 million of the $11 million available. Almost $500,000 of $6.2 million available has been paid or is pending payment from the City of Birmingham’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The state program has paid out almost $4 million of the $237 million available.

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