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The tenant-based rental assistance program would ease renters' struggling to pay back missed rent and help stabilize families over the next year. Courtesy photo
The tenant-based rental assistance program would ease renters' struggling to pay back missed rent and help stabilize families over the next year. Courtesy photo
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Oceanside awards contract to nonprofit for rental assistance program

OCEANSIDE — The city awarded another contract to Interfaith Community Services to maintain a tenant-based rental assistance program that will help stabilize residents as they recover from COVID-19 financial impacts.

Interfaith, which has already been contracted in other facets of city services including management of its hotel voucher program for homeless individuals, will now oversee this new, temporary program as part of a more than $1.1 million contract.

Earlier this year, the Oceanside City Council allocated $1.1 million in HOME Investment Partnership funds to be used for a tenant-based rental assistance program.

These funds specifically come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and are meant to provide rental assistance to low-income people or to help build, buy or rehabilitate affordable housing options. HUD has allowed cities to use HOME funds to help address COVID-19 impacts.

Although the temporary moratorium on evictions has helped keep people in their homes throughout the pandemic, tenants are still expected to pay their missed rent back at some point. These individuals, many of whom are still facing job losses and suffering from business closures, have dipped into whatever savings they have left, yet still have remaining rent payments hanging over their heads.

The tenant-based rental assistance program would ease the struggle paying back missed rent and help stabilize families and provide some case management assistance over the next year. Approximately 38 Oceanside households at or below 60% of area median income will be served by this program, the funds of which can be used to help with rental assistance as well as security deposits and utility assistance.

City Council unanimously approved the contract with Interfaith at its Nov. 3 meeting.

Though it eventually gained his approval, Councilmember Chris Rodriguez at first questioned whether the contract with Interfaith was the “best use of city funds.”

Rodriguez has been previously critical of Interfaith for its “housing first” approach to homelessness. At last Wednesday’s meeting, he questioned why current city staff who manage the city’s Section 8 housing choice voucher program couldn’t also take on the rental assistance program as well rather than subcontract Interfaith for the services.

Neighborhood Services Director Leilani Hines explained that the current staff’s hands are already full.

“We have about 1,600-vouchers as our caseload, and about 400 cases per housing specialist,” Hines said.

She also noted that the two programs are quite different: the rental assistance program is only temporary, while Section 8 housing typically is more long-term.

City Manager Deanna Lorson also defended the staff’s decision to seek a contract with Interfaith to manage the program.

“As Leilani explained, because of the current caseload of our current staff, we can’t take on this additional task,” Lorson said. “We will be providing oversight over the contract, and because it is short in duration, it also doesn’t make sense to bring on permanent city staff to do a program that will be limited in term, so I do think that this is an effective use of city resources.”