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New Research Released on Emergency Rental Assistance Program Strategies

Case study analysis of programs’ efforts to advance racial equity and serve extremely low-income people with emergency rental assistance

WASHINGTON, DC– The University of Pennsylvania’s Housing Initiative at Penn, the NYU Furman Center, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released today Learning from Emergency Rental Assistance Programs: Lessons from Fifteen Case Studies, an in-depth analysis of 15 emergency rental assistance programs from around the U.S. The report follows the recent joint report by the three organizations on findings from a survey of 220 emergency rental assistance program administrators throughout the country.

“Today’s report provides a more in-depth examination of 15 emergency rental assistance programs and how they evolved to better serve renters, especially the lowest income and most marginalized renters,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “The report focuses on the key challenges program administrators faced, the innovative strategies they used to address these challenges, and the lessons current and future program administrators can take away.”

The report identifies six key lesson areas with multiple strategies learned in each. “Municipalities across the country are developing, modifying, and testing different models for deploying urgently needed rental assistance,” said Vincent Reina, Faculty Director of the Housing Initiative at Penn. “While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, understanding the variety of approaches municipalities have taken over the course of the past year is critical for current rent relief efforts and for the ongoing support that will be needed.”

The first five lesson areas are increasing tenant take-up, targeting vulnerable groups, engaging landlords, boosting efficiency, and effectively partnering with nonprofits. The sixth lesson area is not just for program administrators, but for funders, including the federal government and state or local legislatures: the necessity of clear and consistently flexible guidelines that programs are expected to meet for their funding. The report provides more than 30 specific strategies across all six lesson areas to improve program efficacy.

"The pandemic has increased housing instability for millions of households, many of whom were already facing high housing cost burdens" said Ingrid Gould Ellen, Faculty Director of the NYU Furman Center. "As local governments scramble to distribute billions of dollars in rental assistance, the lessons these case studies offer will hopefully help to boost efficiency, reduce frustration for tenants and landlords, and better target resources to those most in need."

Last week, the three organizations published a joint research brief on Advancing Racial Equity in Emergency Rental Assistance Programs. The brief discusses five general strategies for advancing racial equity, based on lessons learned from the survey of emergency rental assistance programs and interviews with a selection of program administrators. The lessons include ensuring that funding allocations are based on jurisdictional need; targeting assistance to groups with more vulnerabilities, including prioritizing applications from certain populations or neighborhoods; investing in outreach, including partnering with trusted community organizations; simplifying applications and documentation requirements; and monitoring program processes and outcomes and making mid-course corrections.

Learning from Emergency Rental Assistance Programs: Lessons from Fifteen Case Studies is available at:


About the National Low Income Housing Coalition

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that ensures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes. NLIHC educates, organizes, and advocates to ensure decent, affordable housing for everyone. For more information about NLIHC, please visit

About the University of Pennsylvania’s Housing Initiative at Penn

The Housing Initiative at Penn (HIP) is based out of PennPraxis at the University of Pennsylvania and conducts research that advances evidence-based policymaking; designs and evaluates housing policies and programs; and facilitates housing networks and planning processes. Its mission is to advance effective, and equitable housing policy at the local, state, and national levels. For more information about HIP, please visit  

About the NYU Furman Center

The NYU Furman Center advances research and debate on housing, neighborhoods, and urban policy. Established in 1995, it is a joint center of the New York University School of Law and the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. More information can be found at and @FurmanCenterNYU.