Four new homes in Stebbins

Do you rent a home in the Norton Sound region and make less than $45,000? If you’ve been impacted by COVID-19, you may be eligible for rent relief through the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC). 

The funding comes from a bill passed by Congress in late December of last year. That bill included billions of dollars for housing relief for renters who have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There’s about $200 million coming into Alaska. AHFC Spokesperson Stacy Barns says that funding can help renters catch up on past rent due and to help pay for utilities. 

“The key is that they’re going to meet that income requirement, which is $44,800 in the region. And there is absolutely the possibility that Alaska Housing (AHFC) could be able to take care of future rent as a result of the financial hardship that they’re experiencing because of the pandemic.”

The program does not apply to homeowners. According to the U.S. Census, about 40% of residents in the Nome-census area rent their homes.

Nome landlord Melissa Ford of Nome Sweet Homes says the program will be a huge help for some of her tenants, especially those in the food service and hospitality industry, who have had to face the uncertainty of restaurant closures and restrictions during city-wide COVID-19 outbreaks.  

“Anyone who’s been involved in that industry, has really been hit hard. We lost all of our tourism for the last year since March, we’re not going to have Iditarod. So economically, it’s been devastating for the people that are in the hospitality industry.”

– Melissa Ford, Nome Sweet Homes

Most of Ford’s renters have been able to make rent she says, but AHFC officials still encourage renters to apply. If tenants have been foregoing other bills to make rent, that could help them qualify. And they aren’t disqualified if they’ve had help through previous programs through AHFC or the ones put out by Tribes and the City of Nome. 

Barnes with AHFC admits that the situation is complicated in Western Alaska because many of the region’s homes are considered overcrowded. Households of many people may be struggling, but with multiple income-earners the household may be over the region’s low-income requirement. Barnes says those households should apply anyway. 

“We know that COVID-19 can impact those who are breathing poor indoor air quality. The federal legislation allows us to address those who are in an overcrowded household and also households where there is some fear of domestic violence or assault.”

– Stacy Barnes, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation

Representatives can work with those households to see if they are eligible for assistance. 

Renters will need to show proof that they’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through income documents like a W-2 form. The application deadline is this Friday March 5th, at 11:59pm and can be found at alaskahousingrelief.org/renters or by calling 1-833-440-0420. 

KNOM’s Colin O’ Connor contributed to this report.

Image at Top: Homes in Stebbins Built by the Stebbins Housing Authority. Photo: Emily Russell, KNOM.

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