Q3 Report - Issue Spotlight: Changes to Emergency Rental Assistance

In March 2023, the City of Madison and Dane County announced that the Dane CORE 2.0 Emergency Rental Assistance portal would permanently close effective May 31st, 2023. This change came after assessing the remaining amount of federal funds made available through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

This change comes after over 3 years of providing emergency financial assistance due to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with the Dane County CARES program, then the Dane CORE Rental Assistance Program, and finally the Dane CORE 2.0 Rental Assistance Program. In total, these programs have provided over $94 million in financial assistance to over 15,000 households in Dane County.

In picking the date to close the program, the City of Madison and Dane County projects that there will be sufficient funding to cover any and all completed applications submitted for rental assistance prior to the May 31st closing date.

With the emergency rental assistance programs beginning to wind down, the City of Madison and Dane County have been strategizing around new programs with a focus on housing stability and support.

Among these programs is the Eviction Diversion and Defense Partnership, which will see ongoing investment through at least 2025. However, the program is continuing to develop as we move out of the emergency assistance phase of the economic recovery for COVID-19. These changes include an increased focus on interventions where there is a risk of eviction or the household faces other significant obstacles to housing stability. Below is a brief explanation of the additional changes to the program following the closure of the CORE 2.0 program.

Income Requirements

Starting in June 2023, households will be eligible for assistance if they’re at or below 50% of Area Median Income (“AMI”). Additional services and priority is available for households under 30% AMI.

Program Enrollment

With these changes, the EDDP will adjust the service model of the program to provide ongoing assistance to households through prioritized enrollments. Once enrolled, households will receive up to 6 months of services, including housing counseling, court navigation, mediation, attorney referrals, and up to 3 months of ongoing financial assistance.

Forward Rent

During the previous phase of the EDDP, the City of Madison and Dane County required stipulated dismissal agreements in order to provide forward rent assistance. This requirement created a series of unintended consequences for tenants. In the ongoing review of program parameters, this requirement has been removed from the program’s structure starting June 1st, 2023. Moving forward, future rent assistance will be available to households at or below 30% of AMI.

Prioritization Factors

Starting in June 2023, the EDDP will change the factors for prioritization of applications to largely mirror those of our Prevention Coordinated Entry program, where a household’s challenges in finding new housing establish the prioritization factors. These factors include a household’s previous history of evictions, the amount owed in back-owed rents, criminal history, receipt of housing subsidies, household income, language barriers, and if a household is single-parent-led.

Limitations on Late Rent Fees and Other Fees

In an effort to address excessive late rent fees, the program will set a cap on late rent fees at $100/month for any given month. These fees must be charged in accordance with the provisions contained within a rental agreement and must reasonably match the balance owed. The program will also continue to limit payments for charges that aren’t expressly agreed to in a rental agreement.

These changes, among others, are intended to increase the degree of stability of households facing a risk of eviction by providing additional services for a longer period of time. Over time, the City of Madison and Dane County will continue to assess the effectiveness of these changes.