New Research Note “Emergency Rental Assistance Programs in Response to COVID-19” Released Last Month

National Low Income Housing Coalition released a Research Note, Emergency Rental Assistance Programs in Response to COVID-19, that provides a descriptive analysis of over 440 rental assistance programs created or expanded in response to COVID-19. The analysis provides insight into how programs are funded, designed, and implemented. The report finds that, although state and local governments have allocated at least $3.9 billion to emergency rental assistance, the magnitude and duration of need far outstrip available assistance. Most programs (81%) only provide short-term relief up to three months despite the much longer duration thus far of the pandemic and its economic fallout. Furthermore, too few programs specifically target extremely low-income renters, those with the greatest needs.

Over two-thirds of rental assistance programs use CARES Act funding. The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and supplemental Community Development Block Grants – Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) are most commonly used. State programs tend to use CRF, while local jurisdictions tend to rely on CDBG-CV, frequently mixed with other funding streams. Four out of five programs set their eligibility thresholds at 80% of area median income (AMI) or below, but very few specifically target households at or below 30% or 50% AMI. Programs are increasingly asking landlords to meet other requirements or concessions beyond acceptance of payment on behalf of tenants, such as agreements to a lead inspection, not to evict a tenant or raise rent, or to accept a smaller portion of rental payment as the full amount. Such requirements and concessions may help programs stretch their budgets and help tenants remain stably housed, but they also deter landlords from participating, thereby preventing some renters from receiving assistance. 
Most rental assistance programs lack adequate resources to meet the need. Nearly half (45%) distribute resources on a first-come first-served basis, which may contribute to an inequitable distribution of resources. To date 132 programs, or three out of ten, have closed after available resources were depleted. As pandemic unemployment benefits and the CDC moratorium expire soon, adequate funding for rental assistance is more urgently needed than ever. National Low Income Housing Coalition continues to collect information about state and local rental assistance programs, especially those created or expanded during the coronavirus pandemic.

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