COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus resident Kim Williams contacted Better Call 4 desperate for answers. As a retired social aid worker, Williams says she is determined to find affordable housing for several tenants she knows facing eviction.
“So, we need help, we need help, they need help,” Williams said.
The residents are being evicted after their landlords raised their rent or their income requirement, Williams said.
“They’re living from couch to couch because the shelters are already full with the weather,” she added.
We took her concerns to the Legal Aid Society of Columbus where the Housing Team said several tenants with Section 8 vouchers are struggling to find places they can afford.
“Every day we get calls and every day at court we see folks that, through no fault of their own, suddenly find themselves unable to afford rent,” said Chris Kelly, a social worker with the Housing Team at Legal Aid.
Kelly says he assists residents facing eviction daily at court.
“The process is really overwhelmed right now, that’s absolutely true,” Kelly said. “Everyone is getting these calls. Everyone is getting frustrated.”
He reminds tenants that real estate is an investment, and a rent increase often occurs when property management changes.
“People are thinking less about who’s in it and what families might be there and what senior citizens might be there than they are about what profit they can make off of it,” Kelly said.
He recommends tenants assess all of their options.
“The first goal, of course, is to help people find a way to pay that, whether that’s working temporarily through an agency, whether it’s working with them to get an increase of employment, sometimes that requires finding childcare so they can spend more time away,” Kelly said.
Although he says several programs can assist tenants in the new application process, it can still be difficult for some applicants.
“People have other barriers that landlords are allowed to discriminate against: credit history, criminal history, evictions, and things like that,” Kelly said.
He suggests three steps to find affordable housing. First, be creative. Kelly said potential renters should avoid the trap of only searching popular websites like Zillow.com and Hotpads.com.
“There’s a few websites that are off the beaten track,” Kelly said. “If you use your best judgment, you can go into Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, look for sublets, look for temporary locations.”
Second, be a strong advocate for yourself and establish a relationship with potential landlords.
“Highlight your employment, highlight the fact that you don’t owe your landlord anything, that you weren’t evicted, perhaps, but you wrote up a move-out agreement,” Kelly said.
Third, use all your resources and avoid dragging your previous landlord through the mud.
“You want to play up your supports, perhaps try and offer double deposit if that’s within your means, perhaps suggest a cosigner,” Kelly said.
For more information, visit: https://www.columbuslegalaid.org/contact-us/ or call the Intake Line at 614-224-8374.
For other resources that can help, visit the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.