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Idaho housing officials say rental assistance will last through June 2023 despite federal government clawing back $100 million

Despite turning back roughly $100 million in rental assistance funds to the federal government, Idaho housing officials expect the state to have the funds to help renters through next summer. 

Millions of dollars have flowed into both the Idaho Housing and Finance Association and the Boise City Ada County Housing Authority over the past two years to help low-income renters who were impacted by the pandemic with rent and utilities. The money came in several batches from various federal aid packages, with $211 million headed to IHFA to cover nearly the whole state and roughly $64 million to the Boise City Ada County Housing Authority for renters in Idaho’s largest county. 

The Idaho Housing and Finance Association has given out assistance to 15,509 households since June 2020 and the agency says they’ve been paying out an average of $2.4 million a month in assistance over the last two years. In June, the agency expects to pay roughly $3 million. 

It’s a similar story over at the Boise City Ada County Housing Authority, which took up its own contract to serve only Ada County residents parkway through the pandemic. The agency has served 6,534 households and paid out $31.7 million. This is roughly half of the money awarded to the housing authority from federal money given to both the City of Boise and Ada County. 

But, BCACHA Executive Director Deanna Watson worries about what will happen to renters when this assistance is no longer available and the housing market continues to price low-income residents out of housing. 

“Once it’s gone, and all of these families who have been supported through this program are no closer to being able to pay market rents its frightening to think about what the impacts might be,” Watson said. “We have had a temporary fix for something that needs a long time cure. I think it’s created a false sense of security that will quickly drop away.”

Millions clawed back 

IHFA has turned back several batches of money to the federal government since 2021 after not spending the $175 million from the first aid package down fast enough. 

This includes $33 million handed back in September 2021, $30 million in November 2021 and $36 million in March of this year. On top of that, the agency also willingly reallocated $16 million from its pool of funds to BCACHA after they kept spending down all of their funds due to demand. 

IHFA Director of Communications Jason Lantz said Idaho has always had enough funds to supply the need, but the federal government wants to use the money for other states that have run out. 

“Idaho and a bunch of other states got that $200 million minimum and then other states got a whole bunch more, but it wasn’t as much per capita,” he said. “(The government’s) intent all along was to let the program run and then based on need ‘okay this state needs more and this state doesn’t need as much’. They’re realigning the money. That was the intent all along. It wasn’t a perfect system, but you know that’s what the Treasury came up with.”

Any remaining funds left from the $175 million IHFA was awarded in 2020 will be returned to the federal government on October 1. But, the legislature has already given the agency the green light to start spending the $38 million from the federal government’s second aid package for rental assistance earlier this month. It’s unknown at this time how much from the first aid package could be returned if it’s not spent by October 1. But, Lantz expects the $38 million will be more than enough to meet demand through next summer. 

“Combined ERA funding will get us through June of 2023 and beyond that, that’s up to the legislature,” he said.

A balancing act 

BCACHA is hoping to spend down as much money as they can before next June as Ada County renters are getting crushed by spiking prices. 

Watson said the U.S. Treasury has given out confusing guidelines, or has changed them over time, making it sometimes difficult to plan how to spend the funds. Because BCACHA received extra money from IHFA, they were able to get an extension to spend money from the first relief package through December. 

However, the guidance on how long they had to spend the money came late and BCACHA only have a few extra months to spend the rest of the $16 million they received. 

“The hope was if you’d wait until the fourth quarter of the game (to give guidance) you’d extend the game ending, but they haven’t done that,” she said. 

Right now the housing authority is in the planning stages trying to balance which pot of money, either the first relief fund or the second one, to spend when in order to make sure the money can last as long as possible. This is complicated by new guidelines from the Treasury requiring certain percentages of the money to be spent down by certain dates, or risk losing some. 

“We’ve had a lot of talks with the county and the city trying to figure out how much to keep as much of it as possible,” Jillian Patterson said. “Our concern is because the treasury has created this new guidance that is pushing people to use their ERA 2 money they are saying ERA 1 is going away, but we still have money. It’s hard to balance how we do it.”

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

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