PROJECTHelping Communities Equitably Target COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance

Minneapolis, Minnesota. Protesters rally to stop housing evictions during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected renter households. Renters were already facing high rents and stagnant wages in the years leading up to 2020, and the pandemic made their financial challenges even worse. And because of the pervasive effects of structural racism through discriminatory housing policies and occupational segregation, Black, Latinx and Indigenous renters are most at risk of housing instability. These communities were more likely to be cost burdened before the pandemic, and they have been hit the hardest by the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Congress allocated almost $47 billion in emergency rental assistance during the pandemic to address renters’ urgent financial needs and ensure they can stay in their homes. To meet this goal, states and localities need to quickly distribute these emergency rental assistance resources while ensuring the funds reach the households most at risk of housing instability. Given the pandemic’s outsize impact on communities of color, policymakers can use these emergency rental assistance resources to reduce housing instability, address past systemic harms, and advance racial equity.

We are developing resources for state and local leaders to guide the design and implementation of emergency rental assistance programs that reach the households most at risk of housing instability, with the goal of maximizing programs’ impact on preventing evictions and homelessness. These resources include the Emergency Rental Assistance Priority (ERAP) Index tool, an interactive data tool that identifies the census tracts with renter households most at risk; an equity checklist for administrators of rental assistance programs; upcoming blog posts with real-time case studies from the field; and other tools to help communities distribute funding equitably and effectively.

We are also offering technical assistance to a select group of places to support state and local leaders as they design and implement emergency rental assistance programs. We can offer support in using the ERAP tool and other datasets to target outreach or dissemination of funds, and we can provide insights from prior research and peer communities to inform program design and implementation.

For more information about technical assistance, please contact [email protected].



This project was funded by the Schultz Family Foundation. We are grateful to them and to all our funders, who make it possible for Urban to advance its mission. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Funders do not determine research findings or the insights and recommendations of Urban experts.


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Research Areas Race and equity Housing
Tags Race, gender, class, and ethnicity Fair housing and housing discrimination COVID-19
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center