$25M housing aid program closes in just days after demand spikes

Updated: Feb. 28, 2021 at 6:27 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A program to help South Carolina’s renters and mortgage payers catch up on payments is no longer taking applications after demand exploded in its first days.

SC Housing rolled out SC Stay on Feb. 18 with $25 million in CARES Act funding to divvy up among applicants to help them catch up on back-payments.

SC Housing spokesperson Chris Winston said within six days, the program received more than 7,000 applications and nearly 5,000 will be eligible.

He said it’s expected those 5,000 applicants will exhaust the funds.

“We’ve been hearing from folks a lot in the last few months since the word of the program started getting out, we had about 8,000 people ask us to let them know as soon as the program was open. We knew there was going to be huge demand,” he said.

The program provides 6 months of payments up to $7,500, also allowing renters to pay for back-rent from February 2020.

The current CDC moratorium prevents evictions connected to COVID-19 related causes but does not create a short-term pathway for landlords to recoup the rent.

In November, the National Council of State Housing Agencies estimated that by January, S.C. renters would be $163 to $266 million behind on their rent.

It estimates that were the moratorium was removed, 34,600 to 63,600 households would have been at risk of eviction that month.

Matt Foster is a managing partner at Carolina Moves, a property management company in Greenville. He is also a property owner.

In a December interview with WIS, he said six properties he manages were currently using the moratorium. On Sunday, he said that number was up to 11.

“It’s very disjointed when the government is giving you a moratorium not being able to evict, landlords have to get creative and it just puts a lot of pressure on property managers and landlords themselves on how they’re going to pay the mortgage bill,” he said.

Foster said some landlords he works with have had to begin looking for other lease violations as renters have been unable to pay rent, including mistreatment of the property or untagged cars in the driveway.

“It’s an uncomfortable position to put us in, and opposite of what the CDC intended for us to do anyways,” he said.

He said he’s not surprised at how quickly the $25 million was used and is hopeful more resources are put toward rent and mortgage assistance.

The CDC moratorium is scheduled to end March 31.

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