At Asian Americans for Equality, staff reached out to residents, helping them tap into programs providing rental assistance for those whose financial situations became precarious during the pandemic.
NeighborWorks America launched two new initiatives in 2021 to help create a more stable housing market in communities across the country. One is aimed at helping people avoid foreclosure and eviction, particularly in communities of color. Another is developing a broader network of housing stability counselors in NeighborWorks communities.
The Keeping People Housed initiative launched in November 2021 works with network organizations that have specialized programs and services to support renters and homeowners facing distress in communities of color. The organizations have a history of successful rental counseling and foreclosure/eviction intervention.
“This investment is funding one more solution to the challenge of keeping people in their homes and the work we do to address the housing stability issue across the country,” NeighborWorks President & CEO Marietta Rodriguez said when announcing the program, which is funded by Wells Fargo.
“The economic fallout of COVID-19 has caused housing instability for far too many renters, and Wells Fargo believes supporting organizations that provide legal assistance, housing counseling, and other housing support is an important step in helping people avoid eviction, which is often the first step toward additional financial and housing instability,” Eileen Fitzgerald, head of housing affordability philanthropy at Wells Fargo, said.
Network organizations have been able to support residents who faced additional difficulties related to the pandemic. “We have several cases where we have mediated between landlords and tenants, where people have fallen behind but are now back to where they need to be,” says Rosie Figueroa, director of counseling and sales at St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society, a NeighborWorks organization in Camden, New Jersey.
With funding from the American Rescue Plan of 2021, NeighborWorks also created the Housing Stability Counselor Program. It has distributed more than $31 million to 128 grantees to provide direct counseling support to residents facing eviction, foreclosure or homelessness.
“It is really about getting resources to organizations so they can meet the needs of their community and help people stay in their homes,” says Lee Anne Adams, the NeighborWorks senior vice president, national initiatives.
A counselor at NewVue Communities, a NeighborWorks organization in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was able to help a 70-year-old woman named Emma who had to quit her nursing job because of the risk of treating COVID-19 patients. With less income, Emma was unable to pay rent. Her property manager referred her to NewVue, where a counselor helped her apply for financial assistance. She was approved for funds to pay her back rent and a stipend for three more months of rent. NewVue also helped connect her to state and federal assistance programs.
Adams says the amount set out in the American Rescue Plan met an immediate need but will also have a more lasting impact through stronger local partnerships that can go beyond housing counseling. “It’s also connecting residents with legal aid and all these other resources,” Adams says. “The American Rescue Plan really is supporting infrastructure locally for housing stability in new ways.”