What is rental assistance?
Federal rental assistance is delivered by local emergency rental assistance programs, or ERAPs. This can be from state, city, county, or hyper-local gov’t administration of resources & cost coverage. Depending on where you live, there might also be non-profit resources available to you as well. Each jurisdiction's eligibility requirements and benefits offered are unique, so don’t be discouraged if your friend in another county or state tells you they can’t find anything. This is why it is critical to identify specific programs you can apply to for assistance, track important dates, and begin to collect needed documentation as early as possible.
How do I know if I’m eligible for rental assistance?
Eligibility varies by state and county. Use this dashboard from the National Low Income Housing Coalition to find the different rental assistance programs available to you and understand their eligibility guidelines. Unfortunately, the eviction moratorium has lapsed in all 50 states, and does not look like it will be reintroduced anywhere, any time soon. Visit the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau's housing assistance portal for available relief, local assistance programs protections, and key deadlines, especially if you’re at risk of eviction.
If you have been evicted, or are at risk of eviction, what needs to be done varies based on whether an eviction lawsuit has been filed or not, and if a court has ruled you can be evicted.
Why do I keep seeing ERA or ERAP?
Most options for rent relief are referred to as Emergency Rental Assistance, or Emergency Rental Assistance programs. This is due to the federal program being named ERA, and ERA funding filtering down to the states. You’ll use national databases & search engines to find local rental assistance programs in your state, metropolitan area, or even your tribal lands if you’re living on First Nations land. If you can’t find anything online, dial 2-1-1 and people who work at your local housing authority should be able to help.
Federal ERA funds local programs that should be able to cover at least rent and gas, electric, and/or water costs. Some rental assistance programs work with landlords or utility providers, while others work with renters directly as well. Some programs offer one-time subsidies while others deliver monthly support. Some local or non-profit programs may only cover rent, while others extend to utilities, energy, home internet, late fees, and even trash removal costs.
Importantly, some can also connect you with social service case managers, legal aid, counseling related to housing stress, and other services to keep you in your home. If you’re sick of reading and want to get to searching, check out these resources from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, National Low Income Housing Coalition and the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.
You might not be eligible for rental assistance for any number of reasons, but you’re not out of options! Non-government rental assistance is rare, but does exist! And depending on your situation, it might not even be necessary. While applying for emergency rental assistance…
- Talk to your landlord about a repayment scheme, they might be open to discounts or some plan that keeps you both out of court.
- Talk to a housing counselor, especially if you are in non-traditional housing or assisted living and already have some form of social services case manager.
- Take a look at Public Housing options in your area!
- If you’re on Tribal land, check with your Local Public Housing Agency!
- While mostly spent, some parts of the country do still have Section 8 housing vouchers that can be acquired without sitting on a waitlist for multiple years, full details found here.
- Lastly, if you can find a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit home using the linked search, you might be able to find rental housing that’s significantly cheaper than what rent in your area might be. These units have income limits, preventing them from being bought up by people who can afford more expensive housing.
If you’re a veteran, you might have access to more options through the VA to avoid eviction, get legal aid, or even find secure housing if you’re fleeing domestic violence. Secondary resources are also available to Tribal members, but detailing those is beyond the scope of this primer. Lastly, if you moved during COVID-19, or live in a mobile home, trailer, or houseboat, check your state/local ERAP because there are resources for you as well. You’re not alone, even if you’re over water or your house has wheels.
Don’t be discouraged!
- Deadline passed? Be sure to bookmark any program you find you’re eligible for and check back often, even if the application deadline has passed. Some programs release funding for housing assistance in waves and may open their program back up to accept more applications in the near future.
- Missed a bill? That’s not the end of the world. You’ll be able to negotiate the same way you can with utilities, and some ERA programs have resources for bill repayment as well.
Over time, we're building a repository of state-level resources, linking them here. drop us a line if you’re a Bridge member and want to see your state added next!