Nonprofit partners with communities to help tenants maintain housing during the global crisis.
Marjy Stagmeier, of the Atlanta area, knew she would become a compassionate landlord helping tenants to avoid eviction at age eleven. Fast forward, and after graduating from Georgia State University, Stagmeier began investing in old affordable apartment communities. In doing so, she soon realized that many renters in these communities were low-income single parents, and she decided she needed to do more to help. Stagmeier launched her own 501c3 nonprofit, Star-C, an educational model with an affordable housing solution, which improves educational outcomes by helping to reduce transiency in underserved areas. It offers wraparound services to students and families living in affordable housing communities.
“Many children have come through the Star-C after-school program, who are now doctors, plumbers, and school-teachers, earning good wages that moved them out of poverty,” Stagmeier said. “Almost 100 families have elevated from renting to home ownership because we kept rents low so families can save their money…If tenants and their children are stable in their community, it is a win-win for everyone, including the tenant, child, landlord, and local school.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, many tenants were laid off or were quickly made to care for children at home. In response, Star-C launched a $50,000 GoFundMe campaign for eviction relief in April of last year and was able to raise almost the full amount.
“The eviction relief fund works with landlords who offer affordable rents for low-income families,” she explained. “Our landlords know their neediest tenants and assists them with their applications. So many of our tenants and landlords are simply grateful. Our Star-C staff often receives thank you notes and calls from families who have now found work and can pay their rent.”
The local municipal government of Cobb County also discovered the Star-C Eviction Relief Fund and voted to donate $1.5 million of their federal stimulus funding. Fulton County and others soon followed suit, and Star-C has now raised over $9 million. “This has kept 3,000 families from facing eviction,: Stagmeier said.
To date, the nonprofit has partnered with over 330 landlords representing 65,000 apartment units, and to boost these efforts even more, the 2021 federal relief package has provided another $4.1 million.
Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry said of Star-C’s founder, “If I had 10 more Marjy-run properties in Clarkston, there’s no doubt that our crime rate would drop even more, test scores would go up even more, and our community health and connections would increase. She’s creating a long-term, sustainable paradigm in multifamily housing that will pay dividends to our community for years to come.”
However, Audrea Rease, Executive Director of Star-C Programs, said the fight isn’t over yet, explaining, “The eviction crisis continues, so we continue raising money to provide rental assistance, and are asking for continued donations and collaboration. COVID and its after-effects continue to have a dramatic impact on families because of lost jobs, reduced hours, caring for a sick relative or workers required to stay at home with their children. And despite freezes on evictions and other ‘helps,’ families still face mounting debt and expenses.”