City offers incentives to encourage landlords to accept homeless tenants
City officials are asking landlords to consider renting apartments to homeless individuals and families, and they’re offering some incentives — or at least a safety net — to those who participate.
Under a new Landlord Guarantee pilot program to be announced Wednesday, the city may reimburse participating landlords up to $10,000 for losses due to unpaid rent, repairs due to damage, insurance deductibles, or court costs.
Landlords would also have a dedicated contact in the Office of Housing Stability, intended to help them navigate the program and provide access to resources, including mediation services and reimbursement funds, should there be a dispute with a tenant.
The goal is to get landlords to help support the city’s initiative to end chronic homelessness. The city has set a target under the two-year pilot to help 30 families and 30 chronically homeless individuals transition into permanent housing.
“Boston is committed to making sure all individuals and families have stable, long-term housing — and that means we have to work with landlords to encourage them to rent to those formerly homeless renters who may not be able to meet traditional tenant requirements,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement.
The initiative, run by the Department of Neighborhood Development’s Office of Housing Stability, is part of the administration’s plan to “end veteran and chronic homelessness in Boston” by 2018.
Separately Tuesday, the city announced it will hire a consultant to help in a new program to combat youth homelessness in the city, by gathering data on homeless youth, identifying their needs, and designing ways to address those needs.
“One young person who lives without a stable home is one too many,” the mayor said.
The Guarantee Landlord program is meant to quickly move homeless people who have already been brought into city programs into housing. Interested landlords must submit an application to the Office of Housing Stability. If it’s approved, potential tenants are referred to participating landlords.
City officials acknowledged that a landlord must be willing to participate with no incentive other than his or her good-will effort to help combat homelessness. But they also said the support structure may encourage landlords to participate, knowing they will have resources available if there is a dispute.
Tenants do not have to meet any job or salary requirements but their participation typically means they are homeless and working with a counselor to improve their situation, whether it be getting mental health or substance abuse treatment, increasing their salary, getting new job skills, or pursuing higher education.
Laila Bernstein, who serves as a special adviser to Walsh on chronic homelessness, said that city service providers — from job training to educational counseling — typically know who they are targeting in the program, and what services would help them. An equally important step, she said, is the participation of landlords to help individuals and families find permanent housing.
“This is one focus because it focuses on landlords, and this is a place where we’ve had that gap,” she said.
The concept is modeled after programs in Seattle, Portland, Denver, and other cities. According to Boston officials, hundreds of families and individuals have been housed under such programs nationally, and fewer than 5 percent of participating landlords have requested reimbursements from the guarantee fund.
Peter Shapiro, a Jamaica Plain property owner and author of “The Good Landlord,” a guide for responsible landlords to remain profitable, said the strategy works for landlords as well as tenants. “Participating landlords express pride and joy in being able to make a profit while making a difference — while our nation’s homeless get the housing they need,” he said in a statement in partnership with the city.