To access funds for rental assistance programs, Housing Authorities respond to Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) published in the Federal Register. Each NOFA identifies allocation areas, amounts of funds available per area, and the selection criteria for rating and ranking applications.
Public Housing Authorities are given at least 30 days to submit applications. Interested households apply for assistance through their PHA. A federal program of interest is HUD’s HOME program. It provides grants to state and local governments, which may use them to offer rental assistance. The program’s flexibility allows States and local governments to use HOME funds for grants, direct loans, loan guarantees or other forms of credit enhancement, or rental assistance or security deposits. Visit the HOME Investment Partnership Program page for further information.
Proposition 46 The State of California approved a $2.1 billion dollar bond measure that provides funds for the construction, rehabilitation and preservation of affordable rental housing, emergency shelters and homeless facilities. Proposition 46 has five rental programs. See Table 1.
There are two programs that directly help tenants become homeowners. REALTORS should be aware of these because they constitute valuable tools that renters can use to achieve the dream of homeownership.
Section 8 Public housing vouchers for homeownership: Homeownership vouchers can be used to assist first-time homeowners with their monthly homeownership expenses. Families must meet certain income and employment requirements of eligibility. These vouchers are a solid step to help public housing voucher recipients to become homeowners.
Pay Rent Build Credit: This is a new national credit bureau that tracks rent payments and helps renters build a credit score, thereby overcoming one of the most common obstacles that many renters face: the lack of credit.
REALTORS can participate in any rental assistance program in different capacities:
- Direct Provider Develops, administers and manages the program. Activities such as fundraising, publicity, recruiting both tenants and landlords, and screening are part of the daily job. In other words, it requires the creation of a formal rental assistance non-profit organization. This is a time-consuming process that requires a long-term financial and organizational commitment.
- Partnership with an existing organization Raising public awareness, fundraising, interviewing, education, financial sponsorship and publicity are some of the forms in which REALTORS can help an existing organization in its efforts to either set-up a new program in the community or support its on-going labor. This has the advantage that limited resources can be used towards a worthy cause.
- Government Programs Advocate Championing the use of existing resources towards rental assistance programs and specially those that lead to homeownership. Local officials and housing advocates should be aware of existing financial resources to help renters and use them.
Finally, once the level of participation is decided, REALTORS need to contact any of the following for information, advice or for establishing a partnership:
- Local shelter organizations. Local groups such as the apartment association, church charities or other housing and homeless support groups.
- Local housing authority. The city or county housing authority. A very good source for finding the local housing non-profit organizations. They are also the primary source for finding government funds.
- Local business community. They might be interested in echoing the efforts of a rental assistance program.
- Local rental organization. Many of these organizations have educational programs.