To keep tenants in homes, Elmira is offering $10,000 grants for rental repairs

The City of Elmira will provide grants to help landlords address health and safety issues in their properties, as well as support tenants at risk of displacement. (Jillian Forstadt/WSKG)

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — A few dozen landlords crowded into a room at Elmira City Hall on Wednesday to learn about the city’s new rent rehabilitation grant program.

The city received $1 million from the New York State Attorney General’s Office in 2020 to address some of the root causes of homelessness. City authorities will use the money to help landlords address health and safety issues in their properties, as well as support tenants at risk of losing their homes.

“There’s never been anything to really help the current properties where families live in really poor housing and face health risks,” said Emma Miran, community development manager for Elmira.

Miran said many people in the city struggled to find quality affordable housing. This has left them with dangerous options that in some cases tenants are then forced to move out after code enforcement officers condemn the property due to unsafe conditions.

The city’s rent rehabilitation program aims to protect tenants before that happens by providing their landlords with money to fix potential code violations.

Homeowners can receive up to $10,000 for eligible homes. The money can be used for necessary repairs, such as removing lead paint in homes with young children.

“Unfortunately, we kind of ignore it because they are already there. They already live there,” Miran said. “We don’t even think about the fact that there are kids testing positive for lead in an existing property, which really shouldn’t be happening in town.”

Eligible properties must already house residents whose income is at or below 80% of the area’s median income. For a three-person household in Elmira, that’s no more than $54,000 a year.

As part of the application process, the city’s code enforcement division will inspect eligible properties. The Community Development Department will help homeowners determine which issues to prioritize for funding, including those related to code violations discovered during the inspection.

“It could be for an older family, maybe the property needs new stairs or it needs a porch fixed,” Miran said. “If that creates a situation where that person can no longer live in the property, then that would be eligible for the grant.”

Tenants who are relocated during repairs must then be moved back into the house and rent must be kept at or below fair market rates for five years.

Working with Enterprise Community Partners, Attorney General Leticia James has allocated displacement prevention funds to 10 cities across the state, including Binghamton and Ithaca.

Elmira will use $600,000 of her stipend to fund rehabilitation projects. The remaining $400,000 will be used to hire anti-displacement case managers through the Chemung and Schuyler counties economic opportunity program. Case managers will work with tenants to find other services and address other financial, economic and social causes of homelessness.

The program will operate in conjunction with Empower Financial Credit Union.

“We will work with them if the tenant wants to know more about budgeting or financing, or if they want to put money aside for a rainy day,” said Toni Ruocco, anti-displacement supervisor at the program. economic opportunities. “So we strive to do community referrals and connect people to help resources.”

AJ Bami was among the owners who attended the information session at City Hall. He said many landlords are strapped for cash as building costs soar and tenants stay behind on rent.

“A lot of tenants over the past two years weren’t very good at making their payments on time,” Bami said. “So it’s good to see a program that hopefully can help landlords create and deliver better housing.”

The city will accept applications on a rolling basis.

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