Case study Distributing Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance to Vulnerable Households during the COVID-19 Pandemic
A Housing Innovation Program Case Study
John Walsh
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In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, almost $47 billion in emergency rental assistance (ERA) was made available through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Relief was targeted to renters and the owners of multifamily rental properties to stabilize housing for tenants and to prevent evictions. ERA also helped prevent foreclosures for owners of small rental housing properties who rely heavily on rental income to pay their mortgage and may not have known about federal forbearance options during the pandemic.

But this large pot of money also created some local challenges. This case study discusses two of the challenges related to ERA and mortgage assistance delivery and innovations to resolve these:

Local infrastructure for the delivery of legal and financial resources. During the pandemic’s early stages, many renter households faced swift financial shocks and corresponding threats of eviction. Because of differences in local housing law, legal protections for renters who were not covered by the initial Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act relief were wide ranging. Keeping renters in their homes required fast and individualized responses from legal assistance teams, the infrastructure for which did not exist, as well as funding for rent relief. We discuss how one ERA program was designed to meet renters’ critical stability needs by innovating on how to create local channels to provide relief.

Information and technical barriers for small landlords. Small landlords provide a critical source of affordable rental housing in many markets, owning 70 percent of the nation’s stock of small rental properties.2 These owners usually have fewer resources than larger institutional landlords. During the pandemic, information and technical barriers kept small landlords from accessing available assistance as frequently as their larger counterparts, as seen by lower take- up rates of ERA in rental properties owned by mom-and-pop landlords. Reach and communication were key for getting eligible small landlords emergency assistance and preventing foreclosures. We discuss how an organization that had a history of meeting small landlords’ needs distributed ERA to benefit this group.

Research Areas Housing Neighborhoods, cities, and metros Race and equity Nonprofits and philanthropy
Tags COVID-19
Policy Centers Research to Action Lab
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