Advancing Equity through the American Rescue Plan

In May, the White House released a report titled Advancing Equity through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The report explores 32 different ARP programs– each with a roadmap on how to improve their policy design and better serve historically marginalized communities. This blog post summarizes the sections of the report on the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program, the Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV) program, and the Homeowner Assistance Fund.  

Emergency Rental Assistance Program 

The ERA program provides $46.5 billion in federal funds to state, local, Tribal governments, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to support low-income households impacted by the economic consequences of the pandemic. The program also provides housing stability services, including access to legal counsel for eviction prevention. 

According to the report, over 80% of funds were delivered to low-income households. However, several challenges continue to inhibit the ERA program from providing effective and equitable access to historically marginalized communities. The Biden-Harris administration identified barriers within the program, including complicated application processes, limited awareness of the program among underserved groups, and disproportionate allocations to small renter populations. By collaborating with several departments and agencies, the administration developed a set of recommendations for grantees to enhance equitable implementation of the ERA program: 

  • Prioritize lowest-income households. 
  • Simplify the application process through user-friendly design and eliminate unnecessary eligibility requirements. 
  • Partner with community-based organizations to enhance program visibility and address language barriers. 
  • Provide support and flexibility to Tribal Nations. 
  • Utilize housing stability services for eviction prevention and diversion.  
  • Leverage reallocation to address program participation and access challenges. 

Additionally, the Biden-Harris administration pledges to continue assessing equitable access of the program, provide continued engagement and assistance to grantees, and support long-term eviction prevention programs.  

More information on the ERA program can be found on pages 160 through 174 of the report. 

Emergency Housing Vouchers 

The EHV program provides housing choice vouchers to PHAs in order to assist individuals and families who are homeless, at-risk of homelessness, fleeing, or attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking, or were recently homeless or have a high risk of housing instability. The program provides administrative fee funding for expenses not typically covered by housing choice vouchers, such as start-up costs and placement and service fees.  

By May 2022, HUD had provided roughly 70,000 EHVs to 613 PHAs. However, due to supply shortages and landlord preferences for non-voucher tenants, some households who received EHVs struggled to secure an apartment. One study found that voucher rejection rates ranged from between 15 to 75 percent across metro areas, with the highest rate of rejection occurring in low-income communities. 

To address these issues, HUD prioritized vouchers for communities with the greatest number of people experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness. The Department also required PHAs to work with community partners to develop a Continuum of Care (CoC) that provides additional supportive services. Additionally, HUD offered technical and housing search assistance and extended the minimum lease up period from 60 to 120 days for EHV holders.  

Moving forward, HUD plans to provide further technical assistance to enhance landlord outreach, streamline the EHV application process, and train PHAs and their partners on ways to advance equity. HUD also planned to host a series of focus groups in June with individuals who have leased a home through the EHV program and will launch an evaluation of the program at the end of 2022.  

More information on the EHV program can be found on pages 178 through 185 of the report.  

Homeowner Assistance Fund 

Through the Treasury, the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) provides funding to states, U.S territories, Tribally Designated Housing Entities, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to help prevent homeowner mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities, and displacement.  

Recognizing the disproportionate economic hardship placed on Black, Hispanic, and women-led households by the pandemic, the Treasury has required participants to structure their programs and provide support that meets the needs of historically underserved communities. Additionally, to increase access, it encourages participants to avoid establishing unnecessary documentation requirements and to partner with housing counseling providers that have experience working with underserved populations and addressing housing discrimination and can provide counseling in multiple languages.  

The Treasury plans to continue enhancing practices that promote equity within the HAF program and offering technical assistance to participants.  

More information on HAF can be found on pages 190 through 196 of the report. 

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