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LMH offers many ways to keep tenants in homes

As President and CEO of Lucas Metropolitan Housing, I want to respond to The Blade's articles about LMH eviction policies and procedures. While we made every effort to respond fully to the reporter's inquiries and provide complete information, there are some things I want to clarify.

LMH understands the critical importance of providing stable housing, now more than ever, and is committed to working with its residents to do everything it can to keep them in their homes. Eviction filings at LMH properties, of which there are more than 2,600 units, have been falling steadily as we continue to work with our residents. The filings went from 618 in 2016, to 327 in 2019. Of that number in 2019, 45 people were actually set out.

With the help of our property managers and asset management and resident services teams, LMH continues to work with residents to explore every avenue to prevent eviction.

During the pandemic, not a single resident has had an eviction notice filed against them for nonpayment of rent since it started. LMH has extended its own eviction moratorium through Feb. 28, 2021, and will continue to re-evaluate the need for an extension 30 days prior to the expiration.

LMH acknowledges that a significant percentage of eviction filings are made for low-dollar amounts. Because some of our residents are very low income, their rental obligations are proportionally very small. However, we still must uphold and enforce the lease the same way for all our residents. It is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development compliance issue - and an issue of fairness to all residents.

LMH residents are given seven days after the 1st of the month to pay rent before it is considered late. This is well beyond the standard offered by the private rental market. When a resident is late on rent, the resident is afforded an informal conference with the property manager in which they often come to an agreement and avoid the filing.

The property manager has wide discretion to resolve the matter based on several factors including rent history, change in circumstances, or new information. Resolutions could include a repayment agreement, a last chance agreement, a referral to Resident Services, or other measures to resolve the matter and get the resident back in compliance.

And, at our most recent board meeting, the LMH Commissioners approved a series of amendments - to LHM policies and procedures related to occupancy- that will provide more flexibility when it comes to security deposits and repayment agreements with tenants.

LMH's largest funder, HUD, evaluates the performance of public-housing authorities, and one of the key metrics on which they are judged is the ability to collect rent. It indicates efficient agency operations, leverages taxpayer resources, and gives residents a stake in their housing. Rent collected at LMH properties is returned to residents in the form of services.

If LMH did not hold residents accountable for their rent, it would result in a significant decrease in funds available to maintain and improve LMH properties and provide supportive services such as financial coaching, job training, and mental health resources.

More than 3,000 people are on the waiting list for housing. The agency does not have enough apartments to fulfill this need.

We have placed a FAQ on our website with other information about our policies and procedures around eviction issues.
Please visit our website, to learn more.

Joaquin Cintron Vega is President & CEO of Lucas Metropolitan Housing.

Please see The Blade editorial here