Rental payments among Allentown Housing Authority residents have dropped significantly since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, and as that number increases it is creating concern that the AHA will not have enough money to pay for critical services, such as maintenance and other programs.
"The tenant rent is the single largest portion of our income. That means if rent collections decrease, there is less money to spend on our services, activities for residents, and other needs," said AHA Executive Director Dan Farrell.
Farrell said the drop in collections hovered around 8 percent at the beginning of the pandemic because some residents lost their jobs or were working decreased hours, which meant less take-home pay. The percentage is now up to about 17 percent and residents need to know that despite the pandemic and government-mandated restrictions on evictions for non-payment, residents are still required to make their monthly rent payments.
"Since Covid we have seen a steady decrease in the payment of rent," he said. "The rate has now more than doubled. We want to be fair but we are not going to be played for suckers."
AHA staff members will work with residents to ensure that their rental invoices are accurate, and residents can request reductions or deferrals if their personal income has been affected by the pandemic. The housing authority CANNOT confiscate their federal stimulus money or the $600 in additional unemployment benefits some residents received if their jobs were affected by Covid-related layoffs or closings.
"If they lost their jobs, then we ask them to contact us so we can ensure their rents are accurate," Farrell said. "The eviction moratorium doesn't mean they don't have to pay rent."
However, the moratorium does not protect residents who engage in criminal activities, disturbing neighbors or other activities that violate their lease agreements.
"The offices do not have to be open for them to pay their rent because the rent is paid online," he said. "We are still mailing the invoices. We ask them to use the online payment method."