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Daily Inter Lake – Washington DC News, Study highlights homelessness, eviction rate in Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — “Sheriff’s office! Anybody home?” yelled a sheriff’s deputy with his hand over his gun, his holster unsnapped.

Deputy John Vaughan opened the door of an apartment that was empty enough to make his voice echo. A red scooter and an old crib were the only items left.

“Cleared!” he yelled after inspecting each room. The apartment complex’s custodian, who had been waiting outside, was allowed in and quickly began to change the locks.

The same scene was witnessed 14 times by a Washington Post reporter one November morning in this state capital, which according to data collected at Princeton’s Eviction Lab has the second-highest eviction rate in the country.

The Richmond City Sheriff’s Office had a light load that day: 55 eviction orders. On more typical days, the number jumps to 70 or higher, officials said.

In Southwood, a neighborhood where rents range from $500 to $800 a month for two-bedroom townhouses and apartments, advocates say it has become common to see people cram their belongings into plastic bags, place them in car trunks and leave their apartments before a handful of deputies come to knock on their door.

For many, these scenes are not new.

Advocates and experts say the eviction tradition in Richmond and other Southern cities and towns dates back generations, and has affected black communities the most.

“There has been a housing crisis, an eviction crisis and a displacement crisis for several decades,” said Benjamin Teresa, co-director of the RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University, who has studied housing issues in Virginia and other Southern states.

He points to laws favoring landlords like “pay or quit,” which allows property owners to launch eviction proceedings five days after the payment grace period (other states provide up to 30 days).

TENANTS’ RIGHTS

Teresa said minority communities in Richmond are subjected to predatory lending and discrimination, especially renters who use federal housing vouchers. Landlords can refuse to accept vouchers, and he said landlords who do accept them often steer tenants to housing in poor neighborhoods.

With a new Democratic majority in the General Assembly, advocates were hoping for ambitious housing reform across the commonwealth this year. More than a dozen measures were introduced to tackle housing issues, but none “explicitly deals with eviction,” said Christie Marra, a family and housing attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

She said most of the focus has been on giving tenants tools to ensure their housing is safe and habitable, cap fees assessed after late rent payments and force landlords to make or pay for repairs.

A measure requiring landlords to provide tenants a list of their rights and responsibilities at the beginning of the lease term was approved by the Senate with bipartisan support and is awaiting action by the House.

The Senate unanimously approved and sent to the House a bill that would give tenants the right to make essential repairs and deduct them from their rent if a landlord refuses or does not take care of the issue within 14 days.

Another bill, proposed by state Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) would allow judges to expunge eviction records from cases that were dismissed or withdrawn by the landlord. Such records can make it hard for renters to secure future leases. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, and it is expected to be heard in the House this week.

And despite opposition, the House approved 61 to 37 a bill that bans landlords from refusing housing vouchers as payment. The measure was referred to the Senate.

Marra said the legislation is leading the state in the right direction.

“I think we all needed time to see what could get done in some of these other areas,” she said. “And then regroup once this session ends to try to really focus on gathering together groups of tenants in the high-evicting areas to hear directly from them.”

PHONE CALLS AND MOTELS

A few days after Vaughan searched the apartment with the red scooter, Laurette Turner, 64, sat at the end of a hotel bed on the other side of Richmond. She was talking to yet another employee of a housing organization that aims to help evictees.

She was evicted in June, along with her daughter and three grandchildren, from a government-subsidized apartment complex where she had lived for more than eight years, mostly on disability payments and government assistance.

Turner said the property managers at the Townes at River South apartments lost two of her rent payments; staff at the complex said they were unable to comment on her case.

For more than six months, Turner sought help from nonprofits and government organizations in searching for permanent housing. Having an eviction on her rental record meant many landlords turned her away, she said, so cheap hotels were often the only option.

She compared rates, called reception desks, negotiated with case managers for enough funding to stay for a few days or a week. Each time she needed to leave, she moved her family’s belongings in plastic bags.

“Everybody thinks the homeless are the people on the street or the people walking up and down the street for money. Or people sleeping in their cars,” she said in her room at the Quality Inn in Northside Richmond. “But it’s more than that.”

Before Christmas, she found a landlord willing to rent the family a townhouse for six months. “It has three bedrooms, one bath, living room, dining area and kitchen with washer and dryer hookups,” she texted a Washington Post reporter. “Thank God for his grace and mercy.”

Turner has been trying to get the landlord to install a washer and dryer, and she hopes to extend the lease until the end of 2020. She also wants to pay a credit repair service she saw on television, which she believes could get the eviction erased from her record.

“I’m going to find out,” she said on Feb. 11.

DOING HIS JOB

Those carrying out removals were unaware that an eviction epidemic was plaguing their hometown until Princeton’s Eviction Lab study, which found that the 10 U.S. cities with the highest eviction rates included five in Virginia: Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake.

“It was an eye-opener,” said Civil Process Sgt. Larry Trotter. “We have five deputies and we’re at number two. It’s not a number you celebrate. Nobody was celebrating.”

The attention, he says, prompted roundtable discussions with Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and local officials, who sought his input on how to decrease the eviction rate. He said he believes, however, that those efforts were flawed.

“The ones at the roundtables should have been the judges, and the ones who make these laws,” Trotter said. “Everybody wants a quick fix. There is no quick fix to it.”

Trotter, who is black and grew up in Petersburg, about 20 miles south of Richmond, said he became a deputy sheriff because he wanted to help society and give law enforcement a positive light in his community.

“I wanted to be the person that people can say, ‘Okay, he has a badge, but he’s still him. He has a badge, but he’s not out here abusing me,’?” he said. “Because that’s what I seen coming up.”

Years ago, Trotter was on the other side of an eviction order. He was unemployed and recovering from knee surgery when he was put out of his apartment.

He lived in his car and sent his family to stay with his in-laws.

He draws from his personal story to try to help those he evicts, telling them that instead of putting blame on others, they should instead learn what options are available and ask, “Where do I go from here?”

He carries pamphlets in his shirt pocket with information on legal and housing services, and even talks to evictees about openings at the sheriff’s office.

“I can do no more, no less with the power that I’m given,” Trotter said. “You don’t want to put people out, but you have to because you have to do your job.”



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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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