Nonprofits Should Be Able to Administer Rental Assistance

written by Kate Seif
August 7, 2013

On the whole, the Continuum of Care (CoC) regulations that HUD released in July 2012 reflected the intent of the HEARTH Act to prevent and end homelessness more effectively. However, for many communities, a few of the provisions seemed to come from out of nowhere.

While system-wide changes like implementing a coordinated assessment system, establishing a governance structure, ensuring system-wide participation in HMIS, and others made perfect sense, some did not. I’m of course talking about nonprofits not being able to administer rental assistance, which seems to fly in the face of what we learned during the nation’s recent economic downturn, when nonprofits were able to draw on HPRP funds under the Administration’s stimulus to do just that.

At the time, HPRP was a great boon to many communities. In addition to the much-needed funds that came with the stimulus program, the program also taught nonprofits how to house families and individuals quickly and efficiently – largely through rapid re-housing. The nonprofits administering HPRP funds were often the same offering assistance through CoC programs, giving them know-how and practice on how to get the job done right.

So it is understandable why the requirement under the new CoC regulations, that only government entities (i.e. Public Housing Authorities, cities, etc.) are able to administer rental assistance directly to clients, came as quite a blow to many successful nonprofits. Now, nonprofits are looking at a sea of red tape and contracting (at the very least) in order to ensure they continue providing invaluable services.

Fortunately, change could be on the horizon. This problem, which is a legal and administrative one, can only be fixed legislatively. In other words, Congress can pass legislation with language ensuring that nonprofits may, in fact, administer rental assistance. It’s as simple as that: one sentence legislation saying “nonprofits may administer rental assistance through the Continuum of Care” would essentially fix this problem.

And there’s good news on that front. The Senate HUD funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2014 includes such language. The legislation is currently awaiting passage in the Senate, but this language was quickly and easily included, indicating support for the adjustment.

In the House, similar efforts are underway. Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) recently introduced simple legislation, HR 2790 – The Housing Assistance Efficiency Act. The legislation includes the same simple language allowing nonprofits to administer rental assistance. The bill is expected to garner widespread, bipartisan support for passage in the House.

While there’s still a ways to go to ensure that nonprofits can keep doing the great work their doing housing and keeping people housed by administering rental assistance, these efforts in both the House and Senate indicate that you are being heard! We’ll have more information on the coming days about how you can get involved in these efforts to help ensure we pass a legislative fix for this problem as quickly as possible! In the meantime, if you have questions, please email me at cseif@naeh.org.