Photo courtesy Durham Rent Relief Program. 

City of Durham residents can now apply online for rental and utility assistance thanks to the Durham Rent Relief Program that launched this week, in response to the financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Legal Aid of North Carolina, a statewide non-profit law firm, is partnering with the City of Durham on the program in an effort to effectively combat the eviction and homelessness facing low-income households.

This city-funded program has a total of $5.7 million available for residents on a first-come, first-served basis. According to the Durham Rent Relief website, priority is given to “renters facing imminent eviction, households with very low incomes, and households with at least one member who has been unemployed for more than 90 days.”

Durham residents including renters and landlords, residents of public housing, renters who receive project-based rental assistance or housing vouchers, hotel and motel residents, and immigrants of any status can all apply for assistance through the program, as can any renters who received assistance from the Durham Emergency Rental Assistance Program in 2021 as long as their new application covers different months.

In a statement, George R. Hausen, Jr., the executive director of Legal Aid of North Carolina, said that a top priority for the law firm has always been to use “legal advocacy to ensure stable housing for low-income people,” but noted “legal help alone isn’t enough right now.” 

“People need to be able to pay rent to stay in their homes. We undertook this project because we needed to do more for people facing eviction and homelessness,” Hausen said.

Applicants can use funds from the program to cover past rent and utilities from March 13, 2020, or later, and the program aims to provide Durham residents with financial assistance up to 18 months. City of Durham residents can apply for the assistance here. Once an application is processed and approved, payments begin within 72 hours. 

“By distributing this financial relief, we are ensuring that Durham residents have what they need to stay in their homes, safe and sound,” said Hausen.

Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal noted that Durham’s low-income residents have been hit especially hard during the pandemic. 

“The Durham Rent Relief Program will offer much-needed financial help to keep people in their homes,” she said. 

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