Rapid Re-Housing Tips for High Cost, Low Vacancy Communities

written by Anna Blasco
May 6, 2015

It is possible to use rapid re-housing successfully in high cost, low vacancy markets. We’ve learned from the innovative rapid re-housing programs that creativity and flexibility are the key to making this work.  

There are three Core Components of Rapid Re-Housing: housing identification, rent and move-in assistance (financial), and rapid re-housing case management and services. I’ve listed some tips that successful rapid re-housing programs in challenging rental markets have shared with us in conferences and webinars below. (I recommended reading through the core components first before reading this blog post, if they are new to you.)

Housing Identification

  • Hire a specialist to locate housing, build relationships with landlords, and address landlord concerns. A former realtor, for example, will have a deep knowledge of the housing market and will be adept at building relationships with landlords.

o   Tool: Housing Specialist Job Description

  • Separate the case management role from the housing specialist role. Some rapid re-housing programs describe themselves as having two clients: the landlord and the formerly homeless household.  Separating these roles allows the program to be responsive to each group.
  • Develop a creative landlord recruitment campaign. Landlord marketing campaigns might include attending realtor or landlord networking events or holding your own, presenting the need for landlords to community and faith groups, and posting ads on craigslists. Ensure marketing materials address the needs and concerns of landlords, and emphasize how your program addresses these. 

o   Tool: Rapid Re-Housing Landlord Benefits Checklist

  • Develop a creative landlord retention campaign. Along with recruiting new landlords, retaining landlords is important too. Being responsive and addressing landlord concerns is an important way to ensure landlords will want to work with your organization in the future, but some organizations have gone above and beyond. Some ideas may be sending thank you letters to landlords, giving a landlord of the year award, or hosting a thank you breakfast.
  • Locate a variety of housing options to better match households with units in a variety of neighborhoods.  Ensuring a household is placed in a unit that meets its financial situation and lifestyle needs, such as school, work, family, and support networks, will increase the likelihood that households will remain stably housed once program assistance ends.
  • Have realistic conversations with households about what they are able to afford. This might mean a smaller unit or shared housing. Some even more creative solutions may be placing clients with an elderly community member as a caregiver and with households facing foreclosure.

o   Tool: Rapid Re-Housing Housemate Upsides and Downsides

o   Tool: Rapid Re-Housing Shared Housing Agreement Form

Rent and Move-In Assistance (Financial)

  • Cut checks fast. In a very competitive housing market, the ability to cut a landlord a check immediately can give clients an advantage.
  • Be Realistic. Rapid re-housing subsidies reflect the reality that most low income households in high cost communities will spend a large percentage of their rent on housing and require participants to pay more than 30 percent of their income towards rent. 
  • Subsidy models are not a package, meaning each client’s assistance is tailored to their needs. This allows providers in high cost markets to provide only the minimal amount of resources necessary and serve more clients, but be responsive to client instability.
  • More money might not be necessary. Adopting a blanket policy of paying double security deposits, first and last month’s rent, or a large subsidy for a longer period of time may increase the pool of landlords willing to rent to clients. However, some communities have found more creative solutions that preserve valuable resources, such as a landlord damage insurance fund.  

o   Tool: Example Landlord Damage Insurance Fund MOU from The Planning Council

Rapid Re-housing Case Management and Services

  • Focus on housing. Rapid re-housing programs in high cost markets do not provide very different case management than other rapid re-housing programs. These programs emphasize the importance of keeping case management focused on housing and accomplishing housing goals, rather than around sobriety or parenting, for example.
  • Train your staff. Rapid re-housing case management has a very different focus than traditional shelter or transitional-housing based services, and many organizations have reported a need for ongoing staff training.