Three Considerations for Planning for the Most Effective Rent Relief Program, Even with Limited Resources

With the upcoming expiration of unemployment insurance programs and the end of the nationwide eviction moratorium, Brookings fellow Jenny Schuetz shares insight on how to implement the most effective rent relief programs.

December 10, 2020, 10:00 AM PST

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

Rental Apartments

MaxyM / Shutterstock

A recently published piece by Jenny Schuetz, a fellow at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, examines important considerations in cities' rent relief programs and offers advice for how these programs could be improved during the ongoing slate of evictions and the impending deepening of the eviction crisis. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide eviction moratorium set to expire on December 31, local governments face a new set of challenges in planning for effective rental assistance programs, executing those plans, and assessing the success of their policies. 

At the beginning of the process, says Schuetz, localities should invest time in identifying specific and measurable goals in order to usefully plan around the best ways to achieve those goals and to identify possible challenges in implementing that plan. Schuetz notes three important questions that policymakers need to consider in making decisions related to this planning: Who will receive the relief? How will the funds be rationed? What will be included in the application process?

In addition to these considerations, Schuetz highlights the importance of accounting for the way in which a rent relief program interrelate to existing local housing programs. "Landlord-tenant laws vary across states and localities, creating an uneven patchwork of tenant protections such as landlord-tenant mediation programs, right to counsel, and the overall transparency and accountability of eviction processes," writes Schuetz. The disconnected nature of various legal processes related to tenant's rights produces challenges for local governments attempting to administer financial assistance. "Designating a single point of contact within the local government could help coordinate and integrate various programs," Schuetz suggests. 

Schuetz also points out that a one-off relief payout does not match the long-lasting impact of long-term housing subsidies and that "ongoing evaluation is essential in making sure the programs achieve their goals and use limited resources effectively."

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