Landlord engagement is a key strategy in ending homelessness and expanding housing opportunity for all Pennsylvanians. On November 5th , the Housing Alliance in partnership with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services hosted Housing Opportunity: The 2018 Landlord Forum. It was a community event to show appreciation to private market landlords who work with tenant based rental assistance programs like Rapid Rehousing and Housing Choice Vouchers. This was the third such forum hosted by the Housing Alliance in recent years, it has been the third such forum hosted by the Housing Alliance in recent years, and a key component of a community strategy to partner with landlords to rent to vulnerable households who they might otherwise screen out.
In 2014, many communities were experiencing a dramatic shift in the rental market. Demand was greater than it had ever been before. At this time, the Housing Alliance through our regional network, the SWPA Housing Alliance in Pittsburgh, hosted a roundtable to jumpstart a conversation among local organizations that were engaging landlords on behalf of clients in need of housing. Based on the success of that event, the Housing Alliance convened the Rental Housing Work Group to identify better, more coordinated strategies of working with landlords renting to tenants enrolled in rental assistance programs in the greater Pittsburgh area.
We approached this strategic initiative with the goal of making the best business case possible for landlords to work with rental assistance programs. We researched changes happening in the local rental market and how those changes were driving the business decisions made by landlords. We started talking to landlords, attending association meetings, and hosting our own information events, forums, and focus groups all to begin to listen, really listen, to what it is that landlords wanted from us as a business partner. The Rental Housing Work Group successfully engaged more than 300 unique landlords to build a community landlord list.
We as a community really have started to think differently about some of the challenges facing BOTH low income households and landlords and together have identified real solutions. Allegheny County now has the Landlord Risk Fund and a new program, the Housing Navigator Unit, within the Dept. of Human Services. For the first time ever, the Housing Navigator is a touchpoint for Allegheny County landlords working with government programs to get information, advertise units, and get support and (when applicable) financial assistance for those rental situations that do go awry.
As the Housing Alliance transitions our work to create win-win partnerships between landlords and social service programs to the new Housing Navigator Unit, we want to say thank you to all our partners in this work, especially those in the private market, over the past four years. Because of the willingness among private market landlords to share their experiences, frustrations, and successes, we have successfully created win-win solutions for landlords and social service programs to make it easier for individuals and families to obtain quality affordable housing opportunities in the private market.
We at the Housing Alliance have gained new information and knowledge about community wide strategies to partner with landlords in a way that helps us to meet our goals and theirs. We look forward to working in other communities across Pennsylvania to engage landlords with the ultimate goal of increasing access to affordable housing for vulnerable households.