Launched by the US Department of Treasury in 2021, the ERA Program provided unprecedented amounts of rental assistance funding to states, tribes, and localities across the United States for their residents and considerable flexibility in these funds’ distribution. The overarching goal of the Program was to stem the rise in eviction and keep families stably housed during the COVID-19 pandemic. HIP researchers will evaluate the impact of ERA on housing stability outcomes, especially eviction, with a strong focus on how its impact varies by household characteristics, housing markets, renter protections, and program design and performance.
“We know that emergency rental assistance (ERA) provided a lifeline to millions of low-income households during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Katharine Nelson, director of research at HIP. “This research will help policymakers understand the impact of ERA in curbing evictions and keeping families in their homes. We hope to learn what aspects of local programs and legal structures best helped keep people housed, and what lessons we can learn for emergency and other low-income housing programs going forward.
The study has three main objectives: to (1) Understand who received ERA funding, and how this group differed from the broader applicant pool and from the eligible population of renters at large; (2) Show the impact of receiving ERA on housing stability; and (3) Learn whether ERA’s impact on housing stability varied by (a) household characteristics, (b) local housing market conditions, (c) state and local eviction moratoria and/or other relevant protections, and (d) local program design.
The co-principal investigators for the project are: Katharine Nelson, the Director of Research at the Housing Initiative at Penn; Lance Freeman, the James W. Effron University Professor, with an appointment in the Department of City & Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design; and Tim Thomas, Director of the Urban Displacement Project at the University of California at Berkeley. Serving as a key advisor is Carolina K. Reid, the I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor in Affordable Housing and Urban Policy in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California at Berkeley.
The project team will conduct three distinct but interrelated analyses. Looking at the impact of rent relief on eviction at the county level, they will explore the heterogeneous effects of policy regimes on eviction rates between states. Second, they will explore how participation in rent relief and renter characteristics are related to evictions and housing stability outcomes at the household level. Finally, they will attempt local causal analyses of rent relief on eviction and housing stability in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, where modified lottery systems were created for oversubscribed programs.
The Housing Initiative at Penn has emerged as a leader in COVID-19 emergency rental assistance research. Partnering with the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the NYU Furman Center, HIP has surveyed and interviewed hundreds of ERA administrators across the country to understand the design and performance of ERA programs. HIP formed partnerships with the cities of Atlanta, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Philadelphia; the County of Los Angeles; and the State of California to evaluate their ERA programs. In November of 2021, HIP received a two-year $500,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation to support these evaluations as well as cross-site analysis. Finally, in December of 2021, NLIHC selected HIP to study the impact of ERA across ten sites, including Denver, Louisville, the State of Oregon, the State of Connecticut, and others.
The Housing Initiative at Penn was founded in 2021 by Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning Vincent Reina, faculty director, and Claudia Aiken, director.