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D.C. To Provide $10M In Grants For Apartment Landlords To Forgive Unpaid Rent

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaking at the New Year New Housing event Jan. 17., 2020

D.C. landlords with tenants that have failed to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic can now receive grants from the city. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday that the District will provide $10M in Housing Stabilization Grants to owners of affordable housing and small rental properties. 

With the grants, the District is offering to provide up to $2K/unit and cover 80% of the rent arrears if the landlord contributes the other 20%. The program covers overdue rent accrued from April 1 to Nov. 30, and it would allow the landlords to forgive the back rent owed, rather than let tenants sink into rent debt.

The grants will be split into two groups. The first group, administered by the D.C. Housing Finance Agency, will support income-restricted affordable housing properties that receive local or federal funds. The second group, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, will include small landlords with 20 units or fewer in their portfolio. 

"This pandemic has forced an unprecedented and disproportionate financial burden on our low-income renters, through no fault of their own," Bowser said in a release. "By allowing housing providers to apply for assistance on behalf of tenants, we can provide swifter relief. The Housing Stabilization Grants will help us protect our affordable housing stock and keep more residents in their homes.”

Small Multifamily Owners Association CEO Dean Hunter told Bisnow Monday his group has had been lobbying for this action for months, with dozens of landlords testifying to the D.C. Council and hundreds emailing council members. 

Hunter said he is pleased to see the District enact this program, but he thinks it needs to do more to support small landlords. His group is lobbying for additional actions, including lifting the freeze on rent increases and allowing landlords to bring eviction cases for health and safety reasons. 

"This is long-overdue, limited relief," Hunter said. "Landlords have been hurting for months. We've been demanding this since June. This is a step in the right direction. It's going to help a lot of people, but we have a long way to go."

Applications for the grants will be accepted from Dec. 1 to Dec. 10. Bowser also announced Monday she will direct an additional $4M for D.C.'s Coronavirus Housing Assistance Program, bringing the total to $10.2M.

Earlier this month, Bowser announced a new $100M fund to provide grants to restaurants, retailers, hotels and entertainment businesses.