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Use It or Lose It: Tenant Aid Effort Nears a Federal Cutoff

By Conor Dougherty, The New York Times | December 15, 2020

Stoneleigh Fellow Vincent Reina spoke to the New York Times about the obstacles tenants across the country must overcome to utilize rental assistance programs.

For several months, Gregory Heller, an official with a Philadelphia nonprofit group, has grappled with an unusual problem. He had $60 million in rental aid to help low-income tenants weather the pandemic — and a whole lot of trouble spending it.[…]

This problem went far beyond Philadelphia. Vincent Reina, an urban planning professor at the University of Pennsylvania, recently found that in some cities as many as half of tenants could not get landlords to cooperate with rental assistance programs. The reasons included not wanting to deal with bureaucracy and an unwillingness to comply with terms like waiving back rent or losing the right to evict tenants collecting aid.

“We’ve consistently created programs where owners have ultimate veto power over whether a tenant can access the housing assistance that they’ve applied for and need,” Mr. Reina said.

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