Opening Doors for Households With Rental Barrier

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BISMARCK, ND – North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) is helping households with poor credit, a history of evictions or a criminal record to secure housing. The state agency launched a landlord risk mitigation fund in September to encourage property owners to lease apartments to individuals and families who may not meet their standard rental criteria.

The Opening Doors program helps Medicaid-eligible households secure housing by providing landlords with coverage beyond the security deposit if a participant causes excessive damage to a rental unit or a loss of revenue.

“Offering property owners a financial guarantee mitigates a portion of the risk in renting to these hard-to-house populations,” said Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director.

One of the key provisions of the program is care coordination provided by a social service agency.

“Households must apply through a care coordinator who agrees to provide services for the duration of the program coverage,” said Kline. “This includes helping to find and secure housing, monitoring their tenancy, and mediating any disputes with the landlord.”
Opening Doors program participants are covered for up to 18 months. During that time, the landlord may receive compensation for damage or lost rent claim coverage for up to $2,000.

“After the program participants’ coverage ends, they may continue to rent from the same landlord or move on to another housing unit,” said Kline. “By establishing a positive rental history, we make them better candidates for their next housing unit.”

The Opening Doors program is a joint effort between NDHFA and the Medical Services Division of the North Dakota Department of Human Services. NDHFA is the administrator. NDDHS approved funding the program with the state’s rebalancing funds. The program will cover up to 67 households. NDHFA will consider alternative funding sources as needed to support additional households.

“As part of a broader focus to connect housing and supportive services, the Opening Doors Program will be an efficient and effective tool to help Medicaid-eligible people with housing barriers be successful tenants and community members,” said Kline. “Establishing these individuals in a stable setting with planned care coordination will produce cost savings for individuals, the community and state.”

A Statewide and Regional Supportive Housing Collaborative identified a landlord risk mitigation fund as a solution to reduce housing barriers for individuals exiting institutional settings or to prevent institutionalization.

Opening Doors was modeled after a landlord risk mitigation program established by the Fargo-Moorhead Coalition for Homeless Person in 2014 that encourages property owners to rent to people who are experiencing homelessness.

NDHFA is a self-supporting state agency that finances the creation and rehabilitation of affordable housing across the state. The North Dakota Industrial Commission, consisting of Governor Doug Burgum as chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, oversees the agency.

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