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Akron program aims to curb possible 'avalanche' of evictions

Posted at 7:34 PM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-01 20:01:22-04

AKRON, Ohio — With so many Northeast Ohioans losing their jobs, there's growing concern about people losing their homes.

However, a new pilot program between East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation and Community Legal Aid is aiming to curb as many evictions as possible.

Eviction actions have been delayed for a few months amid the COVID-19 epidemic, but hundreds of new cases are expected to be filed when Akron Municipal Court resumes some in-person hearings in July, according to John Petit, the managing attorney for Legal Aid.

"I'm afraid the numbers are going to be like an avalanche because they're fairly steadily high anyway in non-COVID times," Petit said.

According to President and CEO Cheryl Stephens, EANDC operates 22 affordable housing developments in Summit and Stark Counties.

When the coronavirus invaded and unemployment filings began to soar, there was a significant jump in tenants unable to pay rent-- 91 families.

That first week (in April), we had a 27 percent non-payment ratio," Stephens said.

To help address the concern, EANDC sent a letter to all of its tenants which included an assistance helpline line through Legal Aid. The number is 330-983-2528.

"Our goal is to keep families in the housing units if they understand what their contractual agreements are," Stephens said. "We're not the big, bad landlord and obviously our relationship with Community Legal Aid proves that."

Petit said Legal Aid can help tenants negotiate with landlords, work out a payment plan and connect them with rental assistance programs.

"Don't wait until the last moment. Don't wait until your court date. Reach out to Legal Aid. Reach out to your landlords. Reach out to assistance programs right away so you have a plan in place," Petit said.

Data analyzed by Eviction lab revealed that Akron has the highest eviction rate, per capita, in the Ohio. Akron ranked 24th highest in the country.

According to a news release from Akron Municipal Court, eviction and small claims will operate remotely "to the extent possible", through July 31. Any pending eviction actions filed within the CARES Act moratorium shall be stayed until July 6, or until such time the required poof that the subject premises is not covered by the CARES Act.

Stephens believes the pilot program will help some families stay in their homes.

"If it just saves one family, that's a big win for us because one less family is looking at homelessness or having to find another unit during this problem."