Illinois will launch a new rental assistance program that could help approximately 30,000 tenants struggling to keep a roof over their heads, according to the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
IHDA is opening online applications Monday for $5,000 grants to catch up on payments since March or cover payments through December.
Applications will be accepted between August 10 and 21, but Kristin Faust, executive director of the state agency, encourages people to apply next week.
“We really want all the renters to apply next week,” she said. “The window is open a little longer than that, but we want to make sure there's time for the landlord to then supply additional information, like… the lease and how much rent is owed.”
The Illinois General Assembly earmarked $396 million from the federal coronavirus aid package to pay for rental and mortgage assistance for people who lost jobs or wages due to the pandemic. Of that, $100 million will go to areas identified as disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.
The mortgage assistance program will launch September 24, according to IHDA.
“The program is really set up for working folks who got hit hard by the pandemic and lost their jobs or had decreased hours,” Faust said.
But Faust and housing advocates say more assistance is needed to avoid people becoming homeless once the statewide eviction moratorium is lifted later this month.
Approximately 511,000 households in Illinois did not pay last month’s rent or deferred a payment, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of census data collected between June 25 and July 7.
Housing Action Illinois Policy Director Bob Palmer said he expects many more families to apply for the rental assistance than there is funding available. Palmer said he and other advocates will likely be asking for another extension of the eviction moratorium.
“Asking [the governor] to extend the eviction moratorium for a while longer to see if we can get additional resources from the federal government or until tenants have actual certainty about whether they've been awarded funds or not,” Palmer said.
The halt on evictions is in place until August 22, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently extended from the end of July.
Faust acknowledges there is greater need and said it could take a few weeks to process applications. The applicants will be selected for the grants by a randomization process, not through first-come, first-served, according to IHDA.
Faust said the plan is to start distributing rental assistance before the end of August.
Faust and Palmer said they hope Congress includes more money for rent and mortgage help in the coronavirus aid package they’re negotiating now.
“[IHDA] works to finance more affordable housing and to make sure that there are more and more units of affordable housing in the state,” Faust said. “But really, this crisis is of such a level that we need help from the federal government.”
A proposal passed by the U.S. House of Representatives included $100 billion for rental assistance and $75 billion for homeowners to prevent defaults and foreclosures. The Senate’s proposal sets aside $3.3 billion for housing vouchers.
“Obviously there's a great social cost, economic cost in people becoming homeless and especially at this time there's a credible public health cost related to people who might become homeless,” Palmer said. He said Housing Action Illinois has been lobbying Illinois members of Congress to support housing assistance.
To qualify for IHDA’s rental assistance, tenants must make less than 80% of the area median income and have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tenants can check their eligibility by providing their zip code and income on IHDA's website.
To apply, renters must provide information about their household, rent and landlord, a government-issued identification, and proof of current address. Landlords will need to provide financial information, the lease, tax bill or deed, property management agreement and proof of past-due rent.
A list of community organizations around the state will assist renters who do not have access to the internet or a smart phone to complete the application is on its website (PDF).