Original Reporting by
New Hampshire’s homeless and rental populations are preparing for the “next wave” of impact from the coronavirus, with pandemic unemployment insurance slated to expire at the end of July and the state’s moratorium on evictions lifting July 1.
“We know that we have a slim supply of rental housing and renter-occupied housing,” Senator Maggie Hassan said on a June 22 webinar attended by six community organizations focused on housing access. “The prices in New Hampshire are already a stretch for a large number of our families, and with the pandemic and sudden loss of income, it heightened this.”
According to Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH, 48 percent of New Hampshire renters pay up more than half of their monthly income for their rent, leaving little room for emergencies. Those people have been especially vulnerable during the pandemic.
Last year, 23,000 households across New Hampshire received federal rental funding, but many people who need rental assistance don’t get it because of limited federal funds, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Nearly half of the New Hampshire households that get rental assistance include children.
The state received $35 million for housing assistance through the Federal CARES Act to aid with withholding eviction, rental assistance and foreclosure moratorium, Hassan said. That support is critical to prevent an increase in homelessness in New Hampshire, Margolin said, asking the senator to advocate for additional funding. However, Hassan said there is “no urgency [for the next relief package] on the other side of the aisle in the U.S. Senate.”
Homelessness across the state has been an issue as shelters have had to cut their capacity in half in order to maintain social distancing, said Martha Stone, executive director of Cross Roads House in Portsmouth. Forty percent of the residents living there have been transferred to a motel to meet social distancing guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, Cross Roads House has a waiting list of at least 150 people that are unable to receive services because of the CDC’s limit.
Funding from the state has allowed Families in Transition-New Horizons in Manchester to open a second location to allow for social distancing. However, the organization’s president and CEO Maria Devlin said that rent payments are getting harder for people to make as stimulus checks and unemployment insurance comes to an end.
“Our renter’s payments have gone down from month to month,” Devlin said. “As time goes on, if they are unable to make payments, how can we help them with what funding is going to be available — that’s going to be the second wave.”
Ben Frost, managing director for policy and public affairs at New Hampshire Housing, said that the state should expect to spend more on rental assistance, as unemployment insurance expires at the end of July. As of May 31, 14.5 percent of the state’s workforce was still collecting unemployment. The CARES Act doesn’t provide enough money to meet the expected rise in demand for rental assistance, according to Frost.
“The $35 million that is coming through the CARES Act for rental assistance is a low estimate,” he said. “The number that we were using as a conservative number was $70 million.”
The CARES Act supplied additional rental assistance through Dec. 31, but many organizations would like to see that extended as they prepare to meet the long-term consequences of the pandemic continues. Hassan agreed that is important.
“We want to continue to make sure people can stay in their homes,” Hassan said.
These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.