New Hampshire will use federal funds for rental assistance

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The Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR) asked the Executive Council to lower funding for two housing stability programmes and redirect the funds to rental assistance on Wednesday. The Executive Council granted the request.

The council-approved action item decreases the $3.4 million to $1 million and adds $2.3 million to the programme for emergency rental assistance.

“This MOU (memorandum of understanding) and our work with CDFA (Community Development Finance Authority) is to assist people to get housed and maintain their housing because that’s really what we want to ensure that people maintain the housing that they have so they don’t end up being homeless,” Santaniello said.

Through a memorandum of understanding, GOFERR has been collaborating with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Community Development Finance Authority to launch the initiatives.

Story Highlights

  • However, difficult forthcoming federal deadlines mandating how quickly the money must be spent have hindered the attempts. The decision to spend the money or lose it is becoming more and more pressing for departments. In an effort to achieve those targets, officials are now starting to shuffle money around.

  • The “Intensive Case Management Program” and the “Landlord Incentive Outreach Program,” each costing $3.4 million, were introduced on October 12. The first initiative uses case managers to assist in relocating homeless individuals from shelters to more long-term accommodation. The second attempts to encourage landlords to accept more Section 8 (also known as a Housing Choice Voucher) tenants.

The Intensive Case Management Program funds shelter and homeless support agencies, creating “system navigation services” to help guide shelter residents to housing opportunities. That work is carried out by staff and volunteers already working at the shelters, Santaniello said.

Due to the reduction in funds and the need to spend the money quickly, DHHS is now focusing on building up a training library for the case-management approach, to be used as a resource in the future, Santaniello said.

The landlord outreach program, meanwhile, is designed to add state support to Home For All, an organization aimed at bringing more landlords on board with accepting Section 8 vouchers. Earlier this year, lawmakers voted down a bill to bar landlords from deciding who they rent to based on a potential tenant’s need for housing vouchers. Home For All seeks to find ways to bring landlords into the system willingly. That can include providing funds to help renovate the apartments to the necessary standards for the federal Housing Choice program and giving landlords the assurance that their tenant has a support network. The state’s allocation of federal money will go to Granite United Way, which will then partner with Home For All, Santaniello said. Officials are hoping to secure 60 units of Section 8-friendly housing by the end of September, when the money runs out.

Each of the housing programs is a small piece of the larger puzzle, but Santaniello says the state is aiming to reduce first-time homelessness by 30% by 2024. That target comes from the state’s Council on Housing Stability, created by an executive order from Gov. Chris Sununu in 2020. The partnerships are meant to help achieve that goal, Santaniello says. “A plan to create housing stability and to prevent homelessness — it takes everybody,” she said.

To Hagaman, even though the state has reduced its allocation to the housing stability programs, those programs will be key in the long run. The second tranche of federal rental relief money, known as ERA 2, is set to expire in 2025, but it will eventually disappear, he noted. “At some point, you know, eventually the funding will be all gone,” he said. “There will have to be a ‘what’s next?’ The services are meant to sort of set up, you know, what’s next.”

 

“It’s dependent on the increase of housing units,” she said, of the long-term plan. “So it can’t be done in isolation.” Still, Santaniello and others say no amount of federal funding and state incentive programs can change the bigger, more intractable reality: New Hampshire has too few homes for too many people. Finding a solution to that will take years of development and market stabilization that goes beyond the scope of DHHS’s work, she said.