HUDSON — Columbia County has launched new initiatives to help residents affected by COVID with housing assistance.
The county Department of Social Services has partnered with St. Catherine’s Center for Children, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York and Columbia-Greene Continuum of Care to expand housing services and support. The initiatives are funded through a $253,000 grant from New York state through the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
“The Legal Aid Society is providing legal support and St. Catherine’s is providing rapid rehousing services,” Hudson 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael Chameides said. “In general, it’s really traumatic when somebody loses their home and it can be really detrimental to their schooling and their education if they are in school. It can be very hard for them to keep their job if they have a job, it can be very hard for them to gain a new job. All the systems that we need people to be able to do, if they don’t have a stable house, it’s really bad.”
About 27.6% of residents in Columbia County rent their home, according to the 2019 state comptroller’s Housing Affordability report. The median rent in Columbia County is about $886 per month and the median renter’s income is about $34,632.
“Housing has been an issue for many, many years, and COVID has really just increased the threat people have around becoming homeless,” Chameides said. “This is a collaborative response with multiple agencies in the county working together to try and address and ameliorate this problem.”
New York state imposed a moratorium on evictions in March, which prevents landlords and property owners from evicting tenants who have been impacted by COVID-19. The moratorium expires Jan. 1, meaning tenants can once again be evicted if they cannot pay their rent.
Chameides expects the need for legal and housing assistance to increase over the next few months.
“The economic impacts of COVID-19 have particularly impacted those at risk of homelessness and the working poor, Columbia County Social Services Commissioner Robert Gibson said. “This program will help alleviate some of those stresses and keep people housed.”
Assistance through these services is available, Chameides said. The services can also help people who might not be homeless today, but who feel they are at risk of becoming homeless in the future.
St. Catherine’s is providing rapid rehousing services for people who don’t have housing or are at risk of losing housing soon. To apply for services, contact Kylle Proper at 518-337-7021.
The Legal Aid Society will provide legal services to minimize the number of evictions. Legal Aid will support tenants in learning their rights and will represent them in court. To apply for services, call 518-462-6765.
“Now, more than ever, vulnerable people need stable housing and support services,” St. Catherine’s Center for Children Executive Director Frank Pindiak said in a statement. “The good news? This need has the attention of leaders from around New York state.”
Columbia County’s Housing Needs Assessment found in 2017 that 45.2% of renters were rent-overburdened.
“It’s important that tenants understand their rights and have the support they need to fight back wrongful evictions and landlord harassment,” Robert Romaker of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York said in a statement.
The eviction moratorium was originally set to expire in June and was then extended to October. In September, it was extended to January.