Angelo Goodwin shook hands with a tenant who had just moved into a Northeast Philadelphia apartment he owns and closed the door behind him. It was then that he heard screams.
His tenant, a veteran who lived in his car and had just started a job as a school bus driver, was celebrating, “Thank God! Thanks! Finally, another chance!”
“It was just a moment of clarity,” Goodwin said. “It’s an incredible feeling.”
About two dozen of Goodwin’s roughly 60 tenants across the city are households that are homeless or have a member who has previously been incarcerated, he estimated. The veteran moved into his home days after Goodwin received a call from someone at the Veterans Multi-Service Center, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit.
Finding a home “gives people the option of having a second life or just a chance,” said Goodwin, owner of Modern Legacy Brand LLC.
The City of Philadelphia and housing agencies are struggling to ensure rental landlords house the many Philadelphians who need it, including those who are homeless, low-income, evicted or have criminal records. Perceptions about the character of people in these situations or a few bad experiences with tenants or housing programs can cause landlords to avoid renting to entire populations.
In today’s market, where rental supply is low and demand is high, landlords can be picky about choosing tenants. Owners who have taken a financial hit during the pandemic have become less willing to take risks and deal with bureaucracy. Philadelphia’s tenant protections that limit how landlords screen tenants can’t do much when dozens of people apply for rentals.
READ MORE: Like homebuyers, renters now face bidding wars in a fiercely competitive market
Goodwin has incorporated partnerships with nonprofit housing organizations into its business model, and it is seeking more opportunities to work with housing organizations and other investors. Shortly before the pandemic, he quit his job as an account manager at Comcast’s corporate headquarters to grow his business, build generational wealth and make his mother proud, he said.
Landlords “are a necessary part of getting people off the streets and alleviating the trauma of homelessness,” said Ryan McGoldrick, director of veteran family support services at the Veterans One-Stop Center.
One of the biggest hurdles the nonprofit faces, she said, is the landlords’ perception that homeless people are “a dangerous population to bring into my home.”
“The stigma we hear very often is that people assume homelessness is caused by moral actions, chronic drug use or being a bad person,” she said. “And that’s just not the case.”
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Homeless people, including veterans, may have mental health issues or have lost their jobs, had a serious health emergency or fled domestic violence.
There is a shortage of homes people can afford and landlords “who can look past some issues to look at the person who needs housing and security,” she said.
“It’s a tough sell to a lot of owners who may not be willing or able to take what they perceive to be a risk,” McGoldrick said.
READ MORE: Philadelphia City Council approves making tenant screening more transparent and helping tenants with past evictions
Housing helps people keep their jobs, avoid prison, and be healthy and safe. Housing First Assistance Models give priority to the rapid housing of people, then take care of their health or their employment. But these policies require willing owners.
Goodwin, owner of several LLCs that handle rentals, can see the Comcast skyscraper from outside a triplex he is renovating in West Philadelphia. Married with three children, he said he had a great position in the company, but “there was always something that tugged at me like it wasn’t that.” I felt dissatisfied.
He had always wanted to start his own business, so he got into real estate on the side while still at Comcast, following in the footsteps of his mother, who owned a few rental properties when he was a kid. Although she didn’t live long enough to see Goodwin’s business take off, “she constantly hammered into my head that real estate was a way to create wealth, generational wealth,” he said. declared.
Its rentals range from a single-family home to a nine-unit apartment building. Its size allows it more flexibility with tenants. “If I had one or two units,” he said, “it would be impossible for me to make sense of this business.”
A handful of people rent units at Goodwin and then operate those units as for-profit short-term rentals. Others live in market or subsidized housing. While not all tenants work, Goodwin said, some of his best tenants are those he’s taken a chance on. He said he wanted to pay for the help he received.
“I look at it like, how can I make a change?” said Goodwin. “I will provide housing for people who need it.
One of the tenants is a formerly incarcerated woman whose child was taken away.
“Now that she’s working and has a place to live, she’s been able to get her son back,” Goodwin said. “It’s right there, is there anything more powerful than that?”
He was able to house a few veterans the same day the Veterans One-Stop Center called, McGoldrick said.
“Mr. Goodwin puts people first by providing permanent housing, knowing that people often just need a helping hand to achieve their goals,” she said.
City organizations that aim to partner with rental property landlords pay rent to clients for a period of time, help them get back on their feet, and act as liaisons between tenants and landlords. The Veterans One Stop Center has a pool of approximately 40 landlords in the tri-state area who regularly house clients.
Syreeta Vereen, assistant director of guest services at Action Wellness, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that helps people with chronic conditions, said landlords sometimes call to offer rentals. About 20 regularly work with the organization.
“It’s tough, but we still have owners like Angelo who are committed to helping our customers,” she said. “We are truly grateful to these owners.”
» READ MORE: Philadelphia landlords and nonprofit homeless services work together to prevent evictions (starting in 2021)
Action Wellness clients include people with mental illness and addictions, people on probation, and people who have left the foster home.
“Over the years we’ve tried to find landlords who understand social issues better,” Vereen said.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority is offering cash signing bonuses, a faster approval process and money to help repair damaged rentals to entice landlords to rent to people with federal housing bonds, who pay a percentage of the rent. The Office of Homeless Services Landlord Engagement Program offers incentives such as money for tenant repairs or missing rent if a tenant leaves early to landlords who house people.
» READ MORE: PHA offers money to try to entice landlords to accept tenants using federal housing vouchers
“The fact that they did this is a really big step in recognizing that landlords take risks all the time taking our customers,” said Rachel Falkove, executive director of the nonprofit Family Promise. of Philadelphia. “And they need to be recognized for that. Many of them really want to help people. And they want their properties occupied.
Rental property owners say funding and tenant education must be part of housing organizations’ plans to partner with them.
About 15 years ago, a municipal organization asked Arlene Caney, owner of a rental property, to help a client. The organization paid the woman’s rent for a year, and she was a good tenant, Caney said. Then she was fired from her job and stopped paying her rent. When she left the apartment, she owed several months of rent arrears, and two pet cats that Caney knew nothing about had spread fleas to other apartments in Caney’s building.
The experience soured him on these types of programs. “I never did it again,” said Caney, who has 17 rentals.
» READ MORE: Philadelphia landlords are selling properties and postponing maintenance, threatening affordable housing supply
During the pandemic, many organizations reached out to Hapco Philadelphia, the city’s largest rental property owners association, looking for accommodations for customers, said Hapco president Greg Wertman. “Because they saw, like everyone else, that the supply of affordable housing was dwindling and they were struggling to find housing,” he said.
Now that landlords have their pick of rental candidates, “they’re in a position where they don’t have to take any risk,” Wertman said. “At this point, they take the best candidate.”
For people coming out of prison or with limited income or bad credit, finding a rental “wasn’t easy before and now it makes it harder,” he said.
Wertman joins Falkove at Family Promise and representatives from other homeless service organizations as part of a coalition working to find ways to house more people.
“We kind of have to find a way where it’s cheaper to take risks for people who really need help,” Falkove said.