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New Portal Aims To Connect Columbus Renters With Voucher-Friendly Landlords

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Paige Pfleger
/
WOSU

Columbus already had a competitive rental market. Now, as the pandemic enters its fifth month and federal coronavirus unemployment benefits dry up, many people won’t be able to pay rent on August 1.

A former Columbus Metro Housing Authority employee has created a program to help connect low-income renters with landlords who accept vouchers.

Renter Mentor will create a searchable database of those landlords, so renters can find housing within the limited time before their voucher expires.

Founder Jerry Valentine says the private market has utilized this sort of technology for decades.

"I don't know why there has been a lack of this investment in the affordable housing sector," Valentine says. "It could be that when people hear 'affordable' housing, they think 'poverty' and 'homelessness.' But we are definitely here to bust down that door."

While he started working on the project more than a year ago, the pandemic made clear the need for such a program. Valentine says existing support organizations are under massive strain as they try to accomodate the influx of people who need help.

"COVID-19 has made an already bad situation much worse," he says.