August 28, 2020

Prioritizing Emergency Assistance to Keep Renters in Their Homes

Where to Prioritize Emergency Rental Assistance to Keep Renters in Their Homes

Download the data.

County Search Tracker - See the greatest neighborhood need.  

Mapping Neighborhoods Where Low-income Renters Face Greater Risks of Housing Instability and Homelessness to Inform an Equitable COVID-19 Response

This new Urban Institute article, released on August 25, states that the pandemic’s economic and health impacts are exacerbating the nation’s affordable housing and homelessness crises—adding more low-income renters to the millions already at risk of eviction and homelessness and widening racial disparities in housing instability. As states and localities allocate emergency rental assistance funds to help renters avoid losing their homes, local leaders must decide where to prioritize their resources.  The article features a unique search data tool to help determine where the need is greatest.  

To help inform those decisions, we’ve developed the Emergency Rental Assistance Priority Index. The index estimates the level of need in a census tract by measuring the prevalence of low-income renters who are at risk of experiencing housing instability and homelessness. To do this, it examines neighborhood conditions and demographics, incorporating instability risk factors before the pandemic as well as the pandemic’s economic impacts.

The index emphasizes an equitable approach, accounting for risk factors that are higher for certain groups, particularly Black, Indigenous, and Latinx renters. These groups have been historically and systematically excluded from housing and economic opportunities and face greater health and economic impacts from COVID-19.

Local decision makers who want to prioritize an equitable COVID-19 response can use this tool to inform a community-based process to target areas where resources for residents and nonprofit organizations are likely to have the greatest impact on reducing housing instability and homelessness. Search for your county or Continuum of Care to see which neighborhoods should be prioritized for emergency rental assistance, or download the data and technical appendix for more information about each census tract’s housing instability risk and the indicators we used to build the index.