Abstract: Understanding Renewal Trajectories in New York City-Funded Rental Assistance Programs (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Understanding Renewal Trajectories in New York City-Funded Rental Assistance Programs

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Laveen B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Angela Ghesquiere, PhD, City Research Scientist, NYC Department of Social Services
Kinsey Dinan, MA, Deputy Commissioner, New York City Department of Social Services, NY
Sara Zuiderveen, MPP, Deputy Commissioner, New York City Human Resources Administration, New York, NY
Background and Purpose: Given long waiting lists for federal housing vouchers, New York City (NYC) has made a substantial investment in City-funded rental assistance. These programs are focused primarily on single adults (SA) and families with children (FWC) experiencing homelessness and are administered through the NYC Human Resource Administration’s Homelessness Prevention Administration (HPA). Rental assistance programs require annual renewals and are portable within NYC. This study links administrative data from several sources to explore trajectories of those receiving rental assistance over approximately 5 years, including socio-demographic and housing-level factors associated with renewals and with shelter entry.

Methods: The sample for this study comprised a total of 5,220 cases that began receiving NYC-funded rental assistance between January 2015-June 2016. Cases were followed through October 2020. Data on rental assistance receipt and renewal were obtained from HPA. Case identifiers were matched to administrative data from the NYC Department of Homeless Services and Human Resources Administration to obtain information on shelter stays and public benefit receipt. Address data were matched to publicly-available data from the NYC Departments of City Planning, Housing Preservation and Development, and Housing and Community Renewal to obtain building- and neighborhood-level characteristics. To provide context for administrative data, we distributed an online survey about reasons for non-renewal to a random selection of 500 non-renewers. Descriptive statistics compared trends by case type and socio-demographic and housing-level factors.

Results: NYC rental assistance kept most recipients (74% of SAs, 81% of FWCs) out of shelter during the approximately 5 year follow-up period. This was likely driven by high rates of rental assistance renewals. Among family with children cases (n=1,975), 65% continuously renewed rental assistance over the follow-up period, while 22% renewed and then stopped and 13% never renewed. Among single adults (n= 3,254), 56% renewed continuously, 24% renewed then stopped, and 20% never renewed. Case type trends seemed to be associated with differences in housing, as SAs were much more likely than FWCs to receive assistance for rooms (vs. own apartment) and those in rooms renewed least often. Sociodemographic factors associated with renewals included a larger household size. For SAs only, those in smaller buildings without rent-regulated units and in certain (often low-income) community districts were least likely to renew. The small number of those entering shelter following rental assistance receipt were much more likely to have a documented move from their initial residence. On the survey (n=83), moves were frequently endorsed as a non-renewal reason. Other reasons included believing one was ineligible and lack of clarity about the process.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest that NYC’s rental assistance programs are successful in preventing shelter (re)entry. Future efforts to increase rental assistance renewals could focus on communication about eligibility; building quality or neighborhood of placements; and preventing moves—or supporting moves while retaining assistance. Results may have implications for renewal-based rental assistance programs in other jurisdictions. Prospective research on the relationship between rental assistance, housing stability, and neighborhood/building factors is also needed to better understand these dynamics.