The federally-funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), enacted in December 2020 and expanded in March 2021to assist families unable to pay rent and utilities during the COVID-19 crisis, is set to expire in Allegheny County at the end of May. Since March 2021, 14,000 local households have received $85 million from ERAP, and applications continue at a rate of 100 new requests every day; funding covers up to 15 months of rent and utilities and can be used retroactively to the start of the pandemic. The county anticipates running out of funds before summer and has notified recipients of the May 31 end date.
While spending during the pandemic has focused on immediate relief for households, a lack of affordable housing in Allegheny County and across the country has long been a primary threat for families at risk of homelessness. The Centers for Disease Control’s pandemic-related restrictions on evictions ended in August 2021, and Allegheny County is expecting a sharp rise in evictions and court mediations when ERAP support is discontinued in May.
Long waiting lists for affordable housing and a very limited supply of housing available to Section 8 voucher holders (Section 8 is a federally-funded housing choice program established for very low-income families, but few landlords accept these vouchers) mean many local families have little option for long-term stable housing.
HEARTH provides up to 24-months of transitional housing and support services for families experiencing homelessness. In addition to helping heads of households pursue self-sufficiency through education and career training, mental health services, and legal resources, HEARTH staff also support families secure safe, stable, affordable housing for the long term. HEARTH at Benet Woods is the first permanent affordable housing development in northern Allegheny County.
At HEARTH, we will continue to advocate for affordable housing where families are safe and secure in their ability to pay rent and utilities and care for their dependents. Like so many things, housing security is a right due to all our neighbors.