Many grantees are using automated systems to help smooth application processing. Some have also implemented additional prioritization considerations beyond the statutory requirements in order to better identify the highest need applicants within their local community.
The city of Houston and Harris County, TX
The city of Houston and Harris County, TX have automated prioritization tiers. In addition to the prioritization requirements required by statute, the program also prioritizes households with a rental obligation below fair market rent as a proxy for vulnerability to housing insecurity. Within prioritized tiers, the program randomly selects applications. The program also gives targeted outreach and support to applicants with an active eviction case. Administrators note that moving programs away from a “first come, first serve” strategy supports improved quality of completed applications and ensure that funds reach populations more vulnerable to housing instability.
The State of Oregon
The State of Oregon has sought to emphasize an equitable approach to their ERA prioritization schema in order to have a statewide consistent use of the framework. ERA program administrators added additional prioritization tiers based on household size, months behind on rent, 2020 wildfire impact, and whether a household lives within a census tract with a high prevalence of low-income renters by using a nationally recognized think tank’s rental priority index. Through this strategy, Oregon hopes to ensure that ERA funds reach applications in areas disproportionately affected by housing instability due to COVID-19 and to align with Fair Housing principles and practices.