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LB organizations collect $26,000 to help low-income renters

Reimbursement program will only last as long as there is funding, officials say

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Long Beach Residents Empowered (LiBRE) and the Long Beach Community Action Partnership (LBCAP) have teamed up to provide a rental-application reimbursement program called the Rental Application Assistance Program (RAAP) to help low-income families ease financial burdens when looking for affordable housing. The program launched on June 1, and $26,000 was collected through donations to jump-start the RAAP.

For some, costly credit checks and application fees can make the process of finding a new home a daunting task.

Long Beach Residents Empowered (LiBRE) and the Long Beach Community Action Partnership (LBCAP) have teamed up to provide a rental-application reimbursement program called the Rental Application Assistance Program (RAAP) to help low-income families ease financial burdens when looking for affordable housing.

The RAAP, which launched on June 1, will run for as long as funds last, according to a press release from 2nd District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce’s office. The RAAP is open to all who meet income guidelines and are seeking residence in Long Beach.

In a phone interview last week with the Signal Tribune, Jorge Rivera, LiBRE RAAP director, said approximately $26,000 was collected through donations to the LBCAP since the program officially launched earlier this month.

“We are not solving any issue, or any crisis,” Rivera said, “but we feel that this program is going to be able to help keep some money in the pockets of some renters.”

The low-vacancy rate citywide is causing people to apply to multiple properties at once, according to Rivera. For low-income individuals, security deposits, application and credit-check fees can steadily add up.

The RAAP will only be available as long as funding for it continues. Rivera confirmed with the Signal Tribune that if the program loses monetary assistance, then it will come to an end.

Darick Simpson, LBCAP executive director, said the funding for the RAAP was collected “months” ago. He said that they wanted to create a strong financial infrastructure and marketing campaign before announcing the program.

LBCAP has proven to be an organization able to lead programs similar to the RAAP, according to Simpson. The executive director told the Signal Tribune during a phone interview Wednesday that $4.2 million in utility bills were paid via a utilities-assistance program– one of many other programs LBCAP helps finance.

“If the money were to go away, the infrastructure will still exist,” Simpson said. “So, therefore, if there was another donation for this particular program, we can easily ramp up again and provide a service.”

Rivera mentioned that all the parties involved are hoping the RAAP will attract more investors to keep the program running.

Most of the RAAP funding is coming from Pearce’s office. She was instrumental in collecting donations for the program, according to both Rivera and Simpson.

Pearce wrote to the Signal Tribune that she convened a meeting between housing advocates and the Apartment Association of California Southern Cities (AACSC) to discuss solutions for renters. The meeting helped her realize that the costs of applying for properties and paying for credit checks were taking a toll on the wallets of some applicants.

Originally, officials attempted to host credit-check programs that any landlord could use in an attempt to save tenants money. After months of negotiations, Pearce said they settled on the RAAP model.

Once it was decided that LBCAP was best outfitted to fiscally oversee the program, the $26,000 were collected. Mike Murchison, a member of the AACSC, donated $25,000 through a family foundation, according to Simpson. Former Long Beach Councilmember Gary DeLong donated $1,000.

Setting administrative fees aside, LiBRE estimates it can issue about 400 to 500 reimbursement checks with the funds they currently have. Rivera said it’s difficult to count individuals helped via the RAAP because some applicants have more fees to pay than others.

“We are not receiving financial compensation for it,” Rivera said. “It’s just part of [LiBRE’s] work.”

LiBRE wanted to set the limited-income qualifications to mirror those of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidelines because the RAAP is more related to housing than any other reimbursement program.

The RAAP was set in motion to help families that fall under the low, very low and extremely low financial limiting guidelines.

Pearce said that “the issues of predatory landlords [are] real,” and that she will continue to advocate, at the state level, for renter reform.

“We will utilize this program to also collect data about how renters move throughout the city, why they move and the cost of the move,” Pearce wrote.

Rivera said it doesn’t cost much to run the program, but the most costly process of the RAAP is authenticating paperwork and writing out the reimbursement checks.

He said that it can take up to three weeks to process applications. LBCAP is processing forms every other week.

Applicants can visit wearelbre.org/raap.html, download a PDF RAAP form and turn it into either LiBRE’s downtown or the north Long Beach offices.

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Serving Bixby Knolls, California Heights, Los Cerritos, Wrigley and Signal Hill
LB organizations collect $26,000 to help low-income renters