For rent

The federal moratorium on rental evictions has ended, but a new round of assistance to help low-income Alaskans with past-due rent utility payments is rolling out this fall.

Alaska Housing Finance Corp., or AHFC, the state housing corporation, announced that a second round of applications for help with rent and utilities will be taken starting Sept. 13.

However, for those who can prequalify online, applications can be taken now. The application period will close Oct. 1.

In an earlier round last spring $117 million was paid to rental property owners and utilities with another $110 million obligated, but not yet paid, for longer-term help. Congress authorized that money in 2020.

The new funding, authorized last spring by Congress under the American Rescue Plan, makes another $150 million available for Alaskans.

As was done earlier, applications will be taken by through an internet portal developed by AHFC. It is: http://www.AlaskaHousingRelief.org. If an applicant does not have internet access, they can call 1-833-330-8290 during normal business hours.

The state housing corporation is working with partners in a collaborative effort. Those include regional tribal housing authorities and nonprofits like Valley Charities in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and the Municipality of Anchorage.

“The new program is a new segment of the federal COVID-19 relief package that offers protection for renters and tenants vulnerable to eviction by providing direct rent relief payments to qualifying landlords and utility companies,” AHFC said in a Sept. 7 announcement.

“Streamlined and confidential, the Alaska Housing Rent Relief Program is open to all Alaska renters who may be dealing with anxieties associated with job loss and experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic,” the agency said.

Information is available at AlaskaHousingRelief.org on the program.

There are there three criteria that will determine eligibility:

• At least one person in a household must be directly or indirectly affected financially by the pandemic

• A risk of housing instability, and a danger of being homeless, must be demonstrated

• Maximum income requirements must be met, which is a maximum of 80 percent of the “Area Median Income” for a region, as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and updated every year.

For Anchorage the AMI is $97,300 and 80 percent of that is $77,840 per year. For the Mat Su, the AMI is $91,400 and 80 percent of that is $73,120.

Applications must be made individually; households currently receiving rent relief assistance are not eligible because support would be duplicative; however, applicants in the earlier round who withdrew or were deemed ineligible then can apply again.

“AHFC’s online eligibility tool allows applicants to check their eligibility in under five minutes by answering a short set of simple questions related to their current housing situation and circumstances,” AHFC said.

Pre-registration is open now to those who meet the eligibility requirements, although the automated system requires applicants to provide a verifiable email address and mobile phone number. “If an applicant has (only) a land line or access to another phone, they can call us during normal business hours at 1-844-330-8290,” said Stacy Barnes, spokesperson for AHFC.

In the first round of rent assistance, about one third of all Alaska renters applied for assistance, or 30,316, AHFC said. About 25,800 met family income eligibility requirements, and18,087 households and 46,708 people were able to be served with an average household assistance at $5,544.

Alaska is being credited for a quick rollout of the federal rent relief program compared other states where payments have been substantially delayed. Early on, Alaska’s state housing corporation implemented technology that speeded the application approvals.

The housing money went to several agencies including AHFC, the Municipality of Anchorage and regional tribal housing authorities, but by agreement AHFC provided central administration, which was mostly automated.

This stands in sharp contrast to other states where there was less coordination among agencies and less technology used, which slowed the response. The Wall Street Journal recently credited Alaska as being number one among the states in getting the federal relief money on the street.

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