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Ada Co. residents could get additional rental assistance with unspent funds

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More rental assistance could begin to flow into Ada County early next year.

Since early this year, the Boise City Ada County Housing Authority spent roughly $18 million on rental assistance for low-income residents of Boise and the rest of Ada County. This is nearly all of the $24 million allocated to the agency by the City of Boise and Ada County. But, another injection of cash to help struggling renters could be coming after the federal government announced it would be moving funds from agencies where more than a certain percentage of aid to residents has not yet been paid out.

[Under $15: Low wage workers in Boise face tough choices in tight housing market]

The federal emergency rental assistance program awarded the Idaho Housing and Finance Association $175 million to aid Idahoans outside of Ada County. But, because the agency has not distributed more than 30% of its aid, the U.S. Department of the Treasury will be clawing back $33.1 million to be redistributed in Idaho. The only other agency administering this assistance in the state is the BCACHA, which will likely receive these extra funds.

Redistribution to keep funds in Idaho

IHFA’s Director of Marketing and Communications Jason Lantz said this redistribution of aid is a win for Idahoans who still need rental assistance, even if it won’t be going to his agency.

“Those amounts were set by the Treasury in the beginning,” Lantz said. “What we saw is it’s increasingly clear that the overall amount nationwide was just about right, but the distribution was a little off which is completely understandable. What it all boils down to is we want the same thing as everyone else. We want to get the resources in the hands of people who need it so however that gets divvied up that’s just great.”

This rental assistance is available to Idahoans who make less than 80% of the area median income, which translates to less than $60,250 for a family for four in Ada County, and can be used for rent and utilities for three month stretches at a time. It can be used for future payments, as well as to catch up on back rent or utilities due. Residents can get help for a maximum of fifteen months until the funds run out, or the program ends in the fall of 2022.

Payments are made directly from the agencies to the landlords and utility companies.

Ada County always requested a high percentage of aid

Lantz pushed back against the idea that IHFA has been slow to distribute the aid.

He pointed out that since IHFA started administering rental assistance programs in 2020 the agency sent out roughly $2 million a month to Idahoans to keep them housed. In the first round of rental assistance through the CARES Act, IHFA administered all of the assistance for the entire state. During this period, Ada County resulted in roughly 46% of applications for aid.

The combination of IHFA only administering aid for applicants outside of Ada County and the eye-popping amount of money available for one of the country’s least populous states makes the agency look less effective than it actually is, Lantz said.

“I think some of the narrative out there is ‘oh well there’s $200 million, why are you at x percent of that $200 million?” He said. “But that is a statutory minimum and more than we were ever going to use…It’s not accurate to measure the success against what is basically an arbitrary figure.”

A needed resource

BCACHA Executive Director Deanna Watson said this extra rental assistance money is critical, especially in places like Ada County where rents are rapidly increasing. She said this assistance has been instrumental in preventing homelessness for hundreds of residents, helping them avoid crippling evictions and trauma from losing their homes that make it more difficult to find a place to live.

“If you look at our stats for who we’ve helped with the money we’ve spent so far under (the emergency rental assistance program), 76% are at 50% of area median income or below and 46% are at 30% or below, so extremely low income,” she said. “Layer on the tremendous rent increases with increases from COVID and what we’re seeing today on inflation, the lower-income households are being impacted far greater than those that are above 50% and even many of those families are being pushed out of the market too.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at margaret@boisedev.com or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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