Agency: The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority
(Size of WtW Program: 500 vouchers)
Helping low-income households locate safe and decent rental housing
can be a difficult task. Many low-income households suffer from
prior evictions, poor credit history, or poor tenancy records. Households
are further challenged with low vacancy rates, increasing market
rents, lack of knowledge regarding the availability of housing resources,
and landlord resistance. These challenges make it difficult for
low-income households to locate appropriate housing, increasing
the probability that they will become homeless or be forced to accept
Solution: Housing Counseling Services through NHHFA's Housing Referral Network
In January 2001, the NHHFA implemented the Housing Referral Network.
The Housing Referral Network is a statewide program that provides
housing counseling and referral services to very low-income households
(with or without rental subsidies), targeting households with minor
children. The program is the result of a Governor's committee that
examined successful leasing programs operating in tight rental markets
around the country. The program was also inspired by the housing
search assistance practices of other WtW voucher programs.
NHHFA is contracting with Community Action Agencies (CAAs) to pilot
the program in four counties. The CAAs will hire Housing Referral
Specialists to provide the following types of assistance:
- Information on how to fill out applications, interview/talk
with landlords, and dress/prepare for interviews or apartment
- Credit assistance, including how to access credit reports, landlord
black lists (lists that name people who've had a rental-related
court case filed against them in NH, regardless of the outcome),
budget counseling, and consumer credit counseling.
- Information on available housing assistance, including security
deposit funds, utility assistance, shelters, and other subsidized
- Help with applying for housing assistance directly or through
referrals to appropriate state and local organizations and assisted
- Information on available apartments, including how and where
to look for an apartment.
- Follow-up services for up to six months. These services may
include participation in or referral services for landlord-tenant
mediation and ongoing referrals for budget and utility assistance.
Housing Referral Specialists will also develop and maintain positive,
working relationships with landlords, local housing agencies, and
other service providers. These relationships will facilitate access
to a greater number of units and needed support services. As part
of this process, landlords are encouraged to contact their Housing
Referral Specialist (HRS) when they have a vacancy. Landlords then
work with the Housing Referral Specialist and tenants to reduce
NHHFA first requested proposals from qualified entities to assist
them with administrating and delivering housing counseling and referral
services to very low-income households. NHHFA soon identified and
partnered with the Community Action Agencies to deliver program
services as part of NHHFA's Housing Referral Network.
NHHFA next identified the four pilot counties for the program.
Once identified, the CAAs worked with local service provider agencies
to ensure that services were not duplicated and designed programs
tailored to each area's specific needs. CAAs also worked with local
landlords to create vacancy databases and develop program recognition.
NHHFA also played a role in identifying program participants. Consistent
with the program's aim, staff selected very low-income households
in need of housing referral services, regardless of Section 8 status,
to participate in the program.
Since the program started in January, 2001, the CAAs have already
hired staff and designed training sessions in collaboration with
a third community partner, The Way Home, a non-profit organization
that offers a variety of housing counseling, assistance, and advocacy
programs. In addition, NHHFA is monitoring the program and collecting
data that identifies which services are most frequently needed and
utilized as part of the process of becoming "renter ready."
Before launching a statewide program, NHHFA is evaluating the program
on an ongoing basis to determine if the program is successful in
assisting families with obtaining and retaining housing.
The Housing Referral Network Program may expand to other counties
following the pilot period (this expansion is dependent upon results
in the selected four counties).
Phillips at (603) 472-8623