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The Housing Resource Center of Monterey County takes a unique approach to creating more affordable housing opportunities.

Housing Resources Center of Monterey County

Alexa Johnson, left, executive director of the Housing Resources Center of Monterey County, and her staff pose for a photo. Photographed by Daniel Dreifuss.

Pam Marino here. It’s not often one gets to sit down and break bread with a roomful of landlords and property managers. But that’s exactly what I did last Friday at Tarpy’s Roadhouse in Monterey at the first-ever Landlord Appreciation Luncheon hosted by the nonprofit Housing Resource Center of Monterey County, which seeks to prevent homelessness and create affordable housing opportunities.

These weren’t just any landlords and managers, these were the people who are stepping up to offer houses and apartments to housing voucher holders who often have a nearly impossible task of getting into rentals. To qualify for vouchers, renters must be in the very-low to extremely-low income categories. 

It’s easy to stereotype both landlords and renters, HRC Executive Director Alexa Johnson tells me. Landlords can be seen as unsympathetic, only interested in money, and renters as those who might end up costing money due to delinquent rent and other issues. HRC represents both, and is seeking to tear down those stereotypes with the goal of housing as many people as possible.

In July, I reported that HRC has been recruiting landlords to partner with the agency in the quest to house more voucher holders. HRC launched its Landlord Gold Standard Program last year, which offers landlords cash and services. New and returning landlords to the program receive $1,000 as an incentive, plus up to $2,000 toward making repairs. They also offer up to $2,000 to cover delinquent rent.

Maybe even more valuable, HRC staff provide support and mediation if and when tricky landlord-tenant disputes arise. The goal is to keep tenants housed so they do not fall into—or back into—a cycle of homelessness.

There were nearly 50 people at the luncheon that also included HRC staff and three representatives from the Housing Authority for the County of Monterey, the agency that is tasked by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with the responsibility of issuing vouchers and conducting rental inspections.

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Johnson says among landlords and managers it was a good mix of new and existing ones. The existing landlords partnered with HRC during the pandemic eviction moratorium to keep tenants housed. On Friday all of them networked with each other, sharing stories and advice. “There was no shortage of conversations,” Johnson says. 

Part of the hope of hosting the luncheon was to eventually house even more people, and already HRC is seeing positive results. Five landlords who attended have indicated they want to offer more upcoming vacant units to HRC clients. 

I myself ate lunch with a landlord who is using her retirement years to rehabilitate properties and rent them out at more affordable rates. She’s less interested in profit and more interested in providing homes to those who need them. It’s one way she gives back to the community. A property manager also at the table works for a company managing over 500 houses in the region. She says it gives her great satisfaction to place families in homes, some of whom were formerly living in overcrowded conditions.

“You can be a landlord who is compassionate and caring and wants to see improvement in the community and make things better,” says Johnson. HRC’s partnership with landlords is certainly a good example of that. You can learn more at hrcmontereycounty.org.

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