Michigan Advocates Create Innovative Eviction Prevention Program

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed an executive order on June 26 that extends the state’s eviction moratorium to July 15 and establishes an Eviction Diversion Program that will be available to renters facing nonpayment eviction actions. The rental assistance grants will be made available through federal Coronavirus Relief Funds allocated when the legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 690 (SB690) on June 17. Advocates hope the eviction moratorium extension, combined with the new rent assistance, will provide housing stability for Michigan renters who have lost income due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and recession.

Executive Order 2020-134 provides $50 million in lump sum payments to landlords who agree to forego evictions in exchange for 90% of the rent they are owed. Advocates are worried that the 90% stipulation as only a partial payment will prevent landlords from participating in the program. Program administrators argue that this provision will allow more households to be served by the $50 million, and landlords will likely participate because of the difficulty in collecting rent arrears after eviction actions. Renters whose entire owed rent is not covered by their eviction prevention grant will enter into manageable payment plans to address the remaining amount.

The order also provides $4 million provides to legal aid organizations who can represent renters in court as well as $4 million to local community action agencies for provide program case management and services.

The $50 million in eviction prevention grants is only a small portion of the $880 million appropriated in SB690, and advocates in Michigan argue that more will be needed. Previous efforts to convince state leaders to use CDBG-CV money for rent assistance were unsuccessful, though some localities (such as Detroit) will prioritize housing stability with CDBG-CV funds.

“The formation of the Eviction Diversion Program is extremely important, but the $50 million will not be nearly enough.” said Jessica AcMoody, policy director for Community Economic Development Associations of Michigan. “This is a first step, and we are hopeful that the U.S. Senate will take action on several proposals for $100 billion in emergency rental assistance that have recently passed in the House of Representatives. Michigan renters need help now.”

For more information on advocacy efforts to protect renters facing eviction in Michigan, reach out to Jessica AcMoody at [email protected].