Urban Institute: Laws Against Source-of-Income Discrimination Could Help Renters Access ERAP

Date Published: 
November 2nd, 2021

In September 2021, the Urban Institute published an article that examined how state and local source-of-income laws can increase the effectiveness of regional emergency rental assistance programs (ERAP) and make them more equitable by expanding participation of historically marginalized communities. The authors believe that an expansion of these laws would allow tenants behind on rent to be eligible to receive ERAP funds and ensure their protection from eviction, absent local moratoriums. Their research showed that while half of all renter households (>22 million households) live in communities with existing source-of-income protections, 3 million of those renter households are still behind on rent. The authors recommend that additional policies should be proposed by governments to directly target and address income discrimination eligibility for ERAP.

The article notes that in recent years many governments have passed source-of-income laws in response to discrimination against Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) holders. But not every one of these laws protects voucher holders or those renters who might need to apply for ERAP. Some states and localities have taken steps to include coverage of ERAP in their income discrimination protections. New Jersey explicitly defined in guidance that ERAP is covered under their antidiscrimination laws. In other places, language in source-of-income discrimination laws that are broadly defined to include any federal, state, or local housing assistance may also cover those households applying for ERAP. The researchers also noted that demographic parallels can be drawn between HCV holders and ERAP recipients, as both populations tend to be disproportionately comprised of people of color and prone to housing instability.

Along with recommending additional language to include ERAP in local source-of-income laws, the researchers also recommend the federal government take action through future Treasury guidance and FAQs to encourage ERAP administrators to clarify if their income discrimination protections apply to ERAP and to provide tools to support fair housing enforcement at all levels of government.

You can find the full article from the Urban Institute here. 

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