More than 70 local households have been approved for housing vouchers but can’t find a rental unit that matches their needs.
To help alleviate that shortfall, the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority will host a symposium July 28 to educate landlords and property owners about the incentives and support available for those who partner with the agency.
Slated to become an annual event, the inaugural landlord symposium also has been designed to recruit and retain participants, said Mariel Ferreiro, landlord liaison manager for LDCHA. It’s part of a targeted effort led by Ferreiro and Gabi Sprague to increase landlord engagement with the housing authority and agencies within the Housing Stabilization Collaborative.
“What if we start looking at this as a more community-based solution? We need you to be in these conversations with us because you have the thing that we’re searching for,” Ferreiro said of private property owners and managers. “We can’t build fast enough to meet the need of folks that are needing sustainable housing.”
In partnership with the city of Lawrence and the Lawrence chamber of commerce, LDCHA invites all landlords and property managers in Douglas County to the two-hour symposium. Ferreiro said attendees would have an opportunity to network with fellow landlords and hear firsthand accounts about the successes and benefits of helping the community by offering affordable rentals.
“We have opened it up to have some of our landlords who are already on the program come in and share a little about their experience,” she said. “We really want to onboard some new landlords and get them interested and give them as much information, empower them, by providing information so we can, in exchange, have units available for our clients.”
Other topics include an overview of the housing voucher system, the incentives available, how to get approved as an LDCHA property, and property inspections. The symposium will conclude with a question-and-answer session. The full agenda is shown below.Landlord-Symposium-Program-Flyer-2022
Ferreiro said during previous years, the number of voucher-approved households searching for rentals might fall between 20 and 30 each month. To have a waiting list that has ballooned into the 70s illustrates the lack of sustainable housing options.
“There’s really a need in this community to address low-income housing, affordable housing and homelessness in our community. We’re really seeing the repercussions of not having enough units accessible and affordable to individuals who need this rent, who just use the subsidy as some additional support to make sure that they can afford to live and afford to take care of their families.”
A key component of landlord engagement involves dispelling some of the myths around Housing Choice Vouchers and making sure potential property managers know about incentives that meet the interests of their property investments, Ferreiro said.
Attendees will learn about a pilot program involving landlord-tenant mediation services, as well as the Moving to Work program, which provides financial benefits for properties that match the housing needs of working families.
And they’ll hear about the Landlord Risk Reduction Fund, which offers financial benefits to property managers who loosen screening requirements in order to rent to unhoused people and those at risk of homelessness. Wraparound services with case managers from social service agencies provide support and ensure the relationship between the landlord and tenant is as “professional and mutual as possible,” Ferreiro said.
“So we can make sure that that tenant is not only ready to move into a space but has a housing sustainability plan and is really getting as many of their needs met as possible,” she said. “Those incentive programs have been pretty successful, but we have more money coming and we want to incentivize new landlords to try out this program and really see the benefit of a guaranteed rent check in the mail every month.”
Landlords have the added benefit of reaching out to Ferreiro as a landlord liaison. “If there’s any miscommunication, I get to be that individual that connects the tenant, and the landlord and the case manager, and make sure we’re working in a holistic way to keep housing and the relationship on track.”
The LDCHA Landlord Symposium will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 28, at KU Innovation Park, 2029 Becker Drive. Attendance is free, but Ferreiro asks that those who plan to attend to let her know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll accept reservations up to and including the day of the event. Refreshments will be provided.
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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.