Are you a property owner or manager?
In Whatcom County, family homelessness is an ever-growing crisis. Without a safe and stable place to call home, our families cannot receive the depth of services they need to reach sustained independence. With an incredibly low vacancy rate in our community and a competitive rental market, it is harder than ever for a family that is struggling to secure housing. Ending homelessness in Whatcom County requires a community solution. That is why we need property owners and managers, like you, who are willing to collaborate with us to address the housing crisis in our community and provide housing stability for local families.
The Lydia Place Rapid Re-Housing Program (RRH) is a partnership between Lydia Place, the City of Bellingham, the Whatcom County Health Department, the Bellingham Housing Authority, and the Opportunity Council. Through this program, Lydia Place supports families to secure housing placements in the private rental market. Lydia Place will pay for their deposit and offer subsidized rental assistance in three-month increments, adjusting portions to ensure they remain affordable for the family. Many families are also able to transition from a Rapid Re-Housing Subsidy to a Housing Choice Voucher (previously known as Section-8) for long-term rental assistance
Lydia Place families meet with their case managers weekly to monthly in their home. Meeting in their home is both more convenient for families and gives case managers the opportunity to complete regular walk-throughs of the unit. We work collaboratively with families on their identified goals towards maintaining stable housing. This may include, but is not limited to:
- Effective and appropriate communication with property managers/owners
- Creating and maintaining a successful budgeting plan based around housing expenses
- Achieving employment, educational and/or training goals
- Maintaining household cleanliness and care
- Placing maintenance requests when appropriate
- Education in Landlord Tenant Laws
- Accessing physical and mental health care
Lydia Place families also gain access to our free parenting and mental health services. Parent Support Professionals and Mental Health Counselors from Lydia Place also provide their services in the family’s home. These wrap-around services enable Lydia Place to provide support in multiple areas without detracting from the focus on finding and maintaining housing.
Prior to moving into housing, Lydia Place will collect documentation of income and create a budget with the family to identify monthly expenses and create a housing payment plan. The initial plan includes a deposit fully paid for by the subsidy, and three months of rental assistance where the family is responsible for a portion of rent which is typically equal to 30% of their household’s monthly income. A copy of the initial plan is given to the property manager upon move-in. We partner with the Opportunity Council’s fiscal department to coordinate timely and consistent distribution of rent checks. For the initial move-in, checks may take several weeks to be mailed out while the client’s account is set up. After the initial move-in, Lydia Place’s monthly portion of rent is mailed out on the first working day of the month. The case manager will communicate payment updates with the property manager/owner as the Opportunity Council updates Lydia Place.
Lydia Place values our partnership with property managers/owners and recognizes that we would not be able to operate this program without their trust and support! We also recognize how important trust and communication are when building healthy professional relationships. For this reason, we encourage communication primarily between property managers/owners and the tenant, but we are more than happy to be looped in as needed. If serious health or safety concerns arise within a unit, or there are concerns regarding a family’s program eligibility, we will be prompt to address this with the family and notify property managers. We trust that in-turn, property managers and owners will communicate with us if issues arise that may affect a family’s ability to maintain housing. We are committed to supporting tenants in developing an action plan to address any notices given to them by property management staff.
While we can never promise the outcome of tenancy, we work hard to ensure families have everything they’ve identified that they need to be successful in their new home. Lydia Place provides our services to any family or individual, regardless of history. In cases where a family may not pass standard screening criteria due to negative criminal or rental backgrounds, we discuss these barriers with the family and support them in providing written context of their history, which includes a reflection on positive changes in their lives. Although Lydia Place is unable to act as a co-signer for families applying for housing, if funding allows, we can offer a double deposit to ease concerns over barriers such as poor credit or lack of rental history. Prior to advocating for a housing placement, we help families navigate the rental market in Whatcom County and discuss factors such as long-term affordability and location of the unit. We encourage transparent communication with potential property managers/owners regarding rental barriers and help ensure that tenants fully understand their lease and the expectations of their tenancy.
A family’s rental portion is determined based on their income, starting at 30%. If they have no income, they pay $0 while they work with their case manager to increase income towards self-sufficiency. For families that will likely not achieve financial independence within the year, and may need long-term rental assistance, we have a partnership with the Bellingham Housing Authority (BHA) that prioritizes them for a Housing Choice Voucher. Sometimes, we know this is the path a family will be on before we house them, and so a family may have a voucher or be in the process of receiving a voucher when we approach a Property Manager to rent to them.
Yes. All units need to pass a basic habitability inspection completed by the case manager after the family is approved and before the lease is signed. Lydia Place uses the Housing Habitability Standards (HHS) Inspection, which is less intensive than the Housing Authority’s Housing Quality Standards (HQS) Inspection. If a family is leasing up with a Housing Choice Voucher at move-in or are transitioning to a Housing Choice Voucher during their lease, then the Bellingham Housing Authority (BHA) will complete an HQS inspection after the Request for Tenancy Approval form is submitted to BHA.
Yes! Since Housing Choice Vouchers require an annual inspection, owners can submit a copy of the inspection completed by BHA to have their registration fees waived and will be exempt from completing a separate inspection with the city. It is the owner’s responsibility to turn the copy of the BHA inspection into the city to receive this waiver, but the case manager can help obtain a copy if needed.
Unless the family has communicated with the Property Manager in advance about why their rent will be late for that month and been granted a limited alternative arrangement, the tenant should receive any notices the Property Manager would otherwise give to a standard tenant per the lease agreement. The case manager should also be notified of this, in which case they will work with the client to address the late payment and create a plan with the family so it does not happen again.
We value our property managers/owners and providing support to protect their housing assets is important to us!
As Lydia Place provides monthly in-home case management, staff will encourage families to report to property managers any damage that occurs in the unit while the family is living there so that it can be addressed as soon as possible.
In the case of eviction, Lydia Place will work closely with the family on an exit strategy in an effort to minimize losses to the property manager (such as moving out on time, securing resources to move all belongings out, etc.) and will also work with the family to set up a payment plan to address any money owed due to eviction or damages. Property owners who work with households who receive rental subsidies at any point during their tenancy also have access to the Landlord Mitigation Programs which provides funding to offset the costs of damages and lost rent.
A family exits the RRH program when they no longer need the financial resources or case management support Lydia Place provides. Typically, this is a mutually reached decision and often happens around a year after securing permanent housing, but Lydia Place case management can extend, even if a client no longer needs financial assistance. Lydia Place regularly supports many families in RRH for 2-3 years or more. Lydia Place clients can also continue to receive our parent education and counseling services beyond their RRH exit date. Families are allowed to withdraw themselves from the program at any time, but rarely do so, as they will lose their eligibility for financial assistance once that happens. Prior to a family exiting RRH services, the case manager will be in communication with the property manager/owner.
As a part of our exit plan, case managers will work with the family on what to do if an emergency arises after exiting our program. Partnering property managers/owners are always welcome to call case managers and ask for support any time after a family exits. Our staff are happy to assist with navigating difficult conversations or accessing community resources.
Yes. Since we receive several types of federal and local funding to operate this program, our contracts stipulate that we must help clients obtain units in accordance with the current year’s Fair Market Rent (FMR) standards as determined by HUD: Fair Market Rents (40th PERCENTILE RENTS) | HUD USER
Clients with Housing Choice Vouchers may have different rent standards that may go higher or lower than these numbers based on BHA’s own guidelines. Prior to move-in, we’ve found it to be most helpful to calculate estimated voucher amounts to inform the housing search if we expect that a family will later be transitioning from an RRH subsidy to a Housing Choice Voucher.
We do not typically assist with utilities, but occasionally have funding sources that allow us to. While families are searching for a unit, we discuss the affordability of the utilities before applying, often filling out budgeting sheets to see what is reasonable. If a family falls behind on utilities, we help connect them to other community resources that can help, and we make a plan to prevent it from happening again.