Need for Long-Term Housing Solutions Reflected in Assistance Programs

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Every Idahoan deserves a safe, affordable home. Research shows children who grow up in reliable housing situations are often healthier and perform better academically than those who do not. Communities are stronger when families have access to stable housing, meaning households can avoid both the costs and the human toll of evictions.

But many Idaho families do not have access to affordable homes. Our communities need to add more than 24,500 affordable homes to the housing market to keep up with demand so that Idaho families can keep a roof over their heads. Wages have not kept pace with skyrocketing rents, both in rural and urban communities. Federal pandemic-related emergency rental assistance (ERA) has prevented almost 15,000 evictions in Idaho and proven to be a critical tool in addressing these dynamics. But this short-term support is only available through 2025, and in the meantime, policymakers should take action on long-term solutions for Idaho’s housing situation at both the federal and state level.

Emergency Assistance Has Prevented Nearly 15,000 Evictions in Idaho Despite Low Disbursement Rates

ERA funds have been used to help 14,789 Idaho households avoid eviction since the beginning of 2021, saving costs for communities in eviction-related services such as emergency response, supports and services for Idahoans experiencing homelessness, and court expenses. Skyrocketing rents and a marked shortage of affordable homes have made ERA an indispensable tool for keeping Idahoans in their homes and preventing evictions. But differences in how  policymakers handled the first round of ERA – known as ERA1 – mean there were missed opportunities to assist more families. The table below shows how the two agencies responsible for distributing ERA in Idaho – the Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA) and the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authorities (BCACHA) – have used the assistance thus far.1

When discussing ERA1, it is important to note BCACHA has disbursed the entirety of its allocation while IHFA has only disbursed 20 percent. Policymakers chose to make ERA1 non-transferable to non-state entities, which meant that BCACHA could not draw any ERA1 state money even as it was experiencing the some of the largest increases in rents in the state during the pandemic and had exhausted its funds. Due the low disbursement by IHFA, the federal government recaptured $34 million of Idaho’s ERA1 funds and redistributed it in other states. The state will likely see additional recaptures for ERA1 and even ERA2 if disbursement rates do not improve. In the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers crafted legislation specifying local programs including BCACHA can receive state ERA1 and ERA2 funds when local money is exhausted, which will improve disbursement rates. Policymakers should take additional steps to improve disbursement rates to Idaho families that need the assistance and prevent more federal recapture:

  • Extend the amount of time ERA can cover hotel expenses for families unable to secure an affordable home.
  • Ensure the application process is accessible to all renters regardless of disability, geographic location, or technical knowledge.
  • Provide case management services for applicants.
IHFABCACHAIDAHO TOTAL
ERA1 Allocation$176 million$24 million$200 million
Total Disbursed$35.2 million$25 million
Total Households Assisted8,7555,21913,974
ERA 2 Allocation$134 million$18 million$152 million
ERA2 Available$38 million$18 million
Total Disbursed$4.3 million
Total Households Assisted815815
Sources: Boise City/Ada County Housing Authorities, Idaho Housing and Finance Association, and U.S. Treasury. 
Data current through April 30, 2022 
*Legislative approval only applies to funding administered by the IHFA.

Changes that improve the disbursement rates of ERA dollars can have an immediate impact, as the Idaho Legislature authorized the continued use of ERA2 funds in Idaho through September 2025 as well as federal homeowner assistance dollars. The amounts approved include:

  • The balance of Idaho’s ERA1 dollars – $77.2 million. Even though these funds will expire on September 30, 2022, there may be an opportunity to carry over some of these dollars beyond the current end date.
  • The first tranche of Idaho’s ERA2 dollars – $38 million. This is a portion of Idaho’s total $152 million allocation, which is available until September 30, 2025.
  • Homeowner assistance – $14.4 million. This is a portion of Idaho’s approximately $50 million allocation, which is available until September 30, 2025.

Historic Investments in Workforce Housing Address Small Portion of Idaho’s Home Shortage

In the 2022, the Idaho Legislature also created and approved funding for a new Workforce Housing Fund to promote the development of housing for employed workers – the first investment of its kind in Idaho. The fund will provide $50 million in gap financing for workforce housing projects using a portion of the State Recovery funds Idaho received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of March 2021. The IHFA is responsible for creating the Workforce Housing Fund’s program rules and administering the funding. These funds will be available through December 2024 and it is estimated they will help fund the development of approximately 1,000 new units2 as Idaho experiences a shortage of more than 24,500 affordable and available homes for Idaho’s renters with modest incomes.3

Idaho’s Federal and State Lawmakers Must Take Action to Address Long-Term Housing Needs

Idaho’s policymakers have made significant investments in housing since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Most of these steps, however, are only temporary support to long-term concerns. Still, they illustrate the success such measures can have in preventing evictions and assisting renters and homeowners. Idaho’s federal congressional delegation and state lawmakers must support long-term policy solutions in order to address rapidly increasing rents and a shortage of affordable and available homes throughout the state.

Federal Policy Recommendations:

  • Support the bipartisan Evictions Crisis Act to improve national data collection and analysis on evictions, reduce preventable evictions and mitigate eviction-related consequences, and improve information on tenant screening reports.
  • Increase funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program to help renters access homes on the private market at affordable prices.
  • Expand the stock of affordable homes by increasing annual funding to the national Housing Trust Fund to promote the creation and maintenance of affordable homes nationwide.

State Policy Recommendations:

  • Identify a funding source for the currently unused Idaho Housing Trust Fund, which can provide gap financing that allows affordable homes to be built. Housing trust funds in other states have a successful track record of creating more affordable homes because they are targeted towards people who are unable to work due to age, disability, or other status. Paired with Idaho’s existing Workforce Housing Fund – which targets affordable homes to people who work – the Idaho Housing Trust Fund would help create a range of needed affordable developments.
  • Secure legislative approval for continued use of ERA2 funds during the 2023 Legislative Session.
  • Reduce program barriers to ensure every eligible Idahoan is able to access assistance.

[1] Local governments with populations exceeding 200,000 had the option to receive a direct allocation of emergency rental assistance instead of relying on programs set up to administer funds statewide. In Idaho, both the City of Boise and Ada County chose to receive direct allocations, and those funds are administered through the BCACHA  Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

[2] Governor’s Workforce Housing Coalition Talking Points. February 2022.

[3] National Low Income Housing Coalition, “2022 Out of Reach Report – Idaho Factsheet.” April 2022. Accessed at https://nlihc.org/gap/state/id


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