New Program Supports Landlords Who Rent to the Chronically Homeless in Boston

Chronically homeless individuals and families known to the city will now have a shot at housing through the Department of Neighborhood Development’s newly launched Landlord Guarantee Program.

The program, which began as a pilot in April, is meant to house 30 homeless individuals and 30 homeless families in the next two years by providing guarantees to participating landlords.

Landlords who sign on to this program will have a designated landlord partner through the city’s Office of Housing Stability, who will help through the tenant selection process and will also assist if any problems arise.

Participating landlords can also claim up to $10,000 in losses, which would cover unpaid rent, damage fees and legal and storage costs associated with their tenant.

Lisa Pollack, spokesperson for the Department of Neighborhood Development, said tenants in the program are recipients of state or federal rental assistance and outside resources and are identified by the city to landlords.

“We know exactly who’s looking for a housing voucher,” Pollack said. “This is our way to recruit landlords to house those folks.”

Programs such as the Landlord Guarantee Program exists by other names throughout the country and have proven to lead to successful placements, said Laila Bernstein, advisor to the mayor on the Initiative to End Chronic Homelessness.

Bernstein said the vast majority, 90 to 95 percent of tenants, have a successful placement with no payout from their programs for damages, missing rent or legal fees, which are covered in the Landlord Guarantee Program.

Kate Brady, senior program manager of the Office of Housing Stability and the Department of Neighborhood Development, said this program is just another way to reduce barrier and stigmas associated with the homeless population.

“I think there’s a perception that there’s a risk to renting out to formerly homeless people, but that’s not necessarily borne out by the housing data,” Brady said.

So far, Brady said one family has been housed through this program, two additional landlords have expressed interest in it and seven more have applied, but do not have available units at this time.

“We find an interested landlord and if they have an available unit we go through the list and present those tenants to the landlord,” Brady said.

Most tenants in the program have some sort of stable monthly income, are in school or in a job training program, according to a press release from the Department of Neighborhood Development.

Landlords participating in the program are asked to waive screening barriers for tenants, including non-payment eviction history and credit history, according to the Landlord Participation Agreement. The landlord is also asked to only consider a few factors in criminal record screenings, such as check fraud, arson and violent felonies that occurred within the past three years.

The security deposit is also something that can either be waived or negotiated into smaller payments at the landlord’s discretion and is encouraged through the program.

Brady said a security deposit is a prime example of a cost-prohibitive item for many homeless individuals and families.

Participating tenants are also placed with case managers through the Office of Housing Stability free of charge for six months, who advise individuals and families with budgeting and finance assistance and apartment etiquette.

Although this is a two-year program, Brady said the city is committed to housing the 30 individuals and 30 homeless families “as long as it takes.”

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University's School of Journalism.