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Editorial: Tulsa's housing plan worked in staving off evictions, but only for now

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Tulsa had the 11th highest eviction rate in the country before the pandemic.

Tulsa’s collaboration on an eviction prevention plan paid off with the number of people getting help from a newly formed assistance program greater than that of those going to court.

The federal eviction moratorium was always going to end, and aid was available to support renters and landlords during the economic downturn.

Tulsa advocates came together to design the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. It’s facilitated by the nonprofit Restore Hope with funding coming through the city, county and state. Housing Solutions has been a leading partner in the process to dovetail the program into the city’s long-range housing plan.

For convenience, an eviction hub was set up across from the courthouse where the eviction cases are heard.

Prepandemic, Tulsa had the 11th highest eviction rate in the country. It was expected to return to that level, and possibly worse, when the moratorium lifted Sept. 1.

That didn’t happen, according to reporter Michael Overall.

Landlords filed 906 cases last month. This is only slightly more than 200 cases filed on average per month during the moratorium, when reasons for filing were stricter.

It appears that tenants and landlords turned to ERAP instead. About 400 more applications were filed in September than in the previous month. It is about 1,500 more applicants than in July.

That’s a good thing. Tenants get help, stay in their homes and don’t wreck their credit. Landlords get paid.

Eviction prevention becomes particularly important as Tulsa faces a shortage of about 3,000 affordable housing units. Those evicted have a hard time finding housing, leading them into homelessness.

Since April, ERAP has distributed more than $15 million to more than 3,000 Tulsa households with overdue rent. In total, Tulsa has provided about $19.6 million from federal stimulus aid for rental assistance.

That is not going to last forever. Funding will keep the program alive through next fall, and some federal funding will be available through 2024.

Advocates have identified long-term solutions including updates to the state’s Landlord Tenant Act. Lawmakers have a chance to do what Tulsans have done — listen, collaborate and act.

Tulsans created an efficient and successful program with ERAP, and we hope it can persevere to continue helping renters and landlords beyond the availability of stimulus funding.

Featured video: Social Services Hub helps those facing eviction


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