Jun 8, 2022 - Real Estate

Maricopa County trying a new approach to solve homelessness

Illustration of a welcome mat in the shape of a ticket or voucher.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Maricopa County launched a new program last week to offer incentives to landlords who accept housing vouchers from people experiencing homelessness.

Why it matters: More than 600 people in Maricopa County who are currently experiencing homelessness have a voucher that would pay for their rent, but they can't find a place to use it. That's according to HOM, Inc., which operates many of Arizona's voucher programs.

State of play: Because of record-high rental demand, landlords can be pickier about who they rent to.

  • Some landlords say the paperwork and federally required inspections that come along with accepting vouchers are too much of a burden.
  • Others assume the people using vouchers are more prone to property damage and police activity — an assumption unsupported by data, according to HOM, Inc.
  • A pilot of the new incentive program convinced 125 landlords to accept vouchers that previously did not, HOM, Inc. told Axios.

How it works: The first-of-its-kind program, dubbed Threshold, was designed to counter landlord concerns and elevate the appeal of voucher holders by:

  • Providing a signing bonus to landlords of 1.5 times the monthly rent.
  • Guaranteeing monthly rent will be paid on time, since it's almost entirely paid by the government and not the renter.
  • Providing up to three times the monthly rent for repairs if there is damage to a unit, and an additional month's rent for vacancy loss during repairs.
  • Operating a 24/7 hotline for landlord support.

Show me the money: Threshold is funded with $5 million total over five years from the county.

  • The first three years will use federal pandemic-relief funds and the remaining two will use general funds.

The big picture: Homelessness is on the rise as more people are priced out of Phoenix' hot housing market.

What they're saying: Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus, the president and CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association — the largest landlord group in the state — said they are "committed to solving the problem of homelessness."

  • She called on all rental property owners to try out Threshold with at least one unit at their properties.
  • "Everyone take one, share the responsibility and improve our community," LeVinus said during a press conference last week.

Yes, but: Landlords have played a role in creating homelessness. They filed about 92,800 court eviction orders to remove tenants in metro Phoenix from 2015 to March 2020, when pandemic eviction moratoriums began, according to The Arizona Republic.

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