The impact of COVID-19 has reached many across our nation in various ways.  As we are entering the second year of this pandemic, many Americans are faced with the possibility of homelessness. The loss of jobs and reduction of hours available to work makes it impossible to meet the demands of paying rent.  This has a domino effect. Landlords also fall into this downward spiral as rent not only helps them to maintain their properties but also provides the capital needed to pay their mortgage and provide for their own families.

There have been $300 billion in emergency funds given to various housing programs to provide “direct rental assistance” to those in need in hopes of preventing eviction.  Within these agencies, Housing Counselors have been identified as a much-needed resource in disseminating these funds.  Typically, housing counselors assist homeowners who faced foreclosure and future homeowners in the home buying process.  Since COVID-19, housing counselors have had to include tenant assistance in their work. Although housing counselors are a needed resource in connecting renters with the help required to prevent eviction, there are not enough funds available to assist groups to hire and train new counselors to help meet the growing need.

The question now becomes, “how do we as a nation create the capacity to help more Americans get the help they need.”  This week, The Urban Institute (Urban), a research organization dedicated to developing evidence-based insights that improve people’s lives and strengthen communities, published a brief entitled “Housing Counseling to Support Renters in Crisis.” In this brief, Urban reached out to 18 leaders from several housing counseling agencies and the National Housing Resource Center and asked the following questions:

  • How has housing counseling adapted to meet the needs of renters during the pandemic?
  • What have counseling agencies learned about renter’s needs?
  • What tools or resources do counseling providers need to support renters in crisis?

Writers, Galves, Anoll, and Boshart also describe services available through “HUD-certified counselors” and how the landscape of what they do has changed since COVD-19.  Now focusing on eviction prevention, Galves, Anoll, and Boshart state that this service is described as “individualized support to help renters at risk of eviction navigate their options, understand their rights and negotiate with their landlords to stay in their homes.” This is a much-needed service as many renters are not aware of the options available.

To continue the conversation and to help shed light on the sometimes-gray areas of housing counseling, how they can help, and information on renters, Galves, Anoll, and Boshart discuss the following:

  • The Challenges That Renters Face
  • Helping Renters Meet Their Emergency Needs
  • Shifting How Services Are Delivered
  • Servicing Marginalized Populations

With the request for the House and Senate Members to add Housing Counseling at $100 million in the Fiscal Year 2022 Programmatic Appropriations, conversations like these are important.  Within this brief Urban addresses important topics on recruiting, training, and putting to work additional housing counselors. Doing so will create the capacity to help more Americans get the help they need.    Assistance is available, but it helps no one without proper guidance.  Housing Counselors can help navigate renters through the sea of information to remain in their homes through the turbulent waves of COVID-19.

To read the “Housing Counseling to Support Renters in Crisis” brief in detail, please click here.