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Baltimore to offer $3.3 million in security deposit aid to renters using federal coronavirus relief funds

The city of Baltimore will offer $3.3 million in security deposit aid to people trying to rent homes.

The aid, which comes from a coronavirus relief grant from the federal government, must be spent between this September and September 2022. During that year, the city will provide certain renters up to $2,000 for a security deposit.

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To qualify, renters must have an income that’s no higher than of 125% of the federal poverty level, be planning on moving into homes that landlords have registered and licensed with the city, have signed a lease and provide documentation that a security deposit is required for them to move in.

“As we emerge from this pandemic, we must address barriers to long-term housing stability for our residents, like unaffordable security deposits,” Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott said in a news release.

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The announcement comes after Scott vetoed legislation that would have required landlords to offer tenants alternatives: either pay a security deposit in three monthly installments or buy what the bill called “rental security insurance.” Supporters of the bill argued it would give renters options. Some City Council members and housing advocates said it would create a system in which companies offering an alternative payment option could prey financially on tenants.

The council had until Tuesday to override Scott’s veto, but did not attempt an override after the votes shifted in Scott’s favor following the bill’s passage. Democratic Council President Nick Mosby, a supporter of the bill, instead proposed emergency legislation Friday to offer security deposit grants and suggested the use of federal coronavirus relief funds. In a tweet following the mayor’s announcement of the new program, Mosby said welcomed the news.

“I stand ready to work with the administration to continue to fight housing insecurity,” he wrote.

For the grant program Scott announced Thursday, prospective tenants will be able to apply online through the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Services, which runs the city’s eviction prevention program.

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Officials are still working out details of the security deposit program, such as whether a tenant gets to keep a deposit refunded by a landlord when they move out or if it goes back to the city, said Sydney Burns, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office.

In addition to the security deposit aid, eligible renters have access to legal and relocation services and utilities assistance. Also, case managers are connecting with renters to help them with long-term housing stability, according to the news release.

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