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'It breaks our hearts': Application portal for federal rent relief closes

Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority has about $1 million left, which should last about two more weeks.

IDAHO, USA — After helping renters and landlords for more than two years, Boise City/Ada County Housing Authorities closed their Emergency Rental Assistance Program application portal Thursday. 

The federal government established the program to help people get through the pandemic, Executive Director Deanna Watson said.

The housing authorities distribute the money on behalf of the city and county. Now, the money is running out.

“We think we will have expended all of the funds within the next one to two weeks, and then we’ll be closing down the program,” Watson said.

BCACHA has about $1 million left. When it is all said and done, Watson said, the agency will have given out close to $70 million in rental relief.

Although necessary, she said, closing the Emergency Rental Assistance Program portal was a hard decision to come to terms with. BCACHA has been receiving anywhere from 100 to 120 applications every day.

“It breaks our hearts to not have a steady income that we can then turn and provide for people who need that help,” Watson said.

She said BCACHA is prioritizing applications where people owe back rent. Then, they’ll move on to the people having difficulty paying next month’s rent or security deposits.

More than 14,000 people received ERAP money, including Elizabeth Smith, who lives in Boise. She applied on Monday and got accepted into the program Wednesday.

Smith said it will cover rent for four months.

“Being able to apply for that and having it be approved so fast was just amazing in the sense of, like, I can provide that not only for me but my family,” she said. “It was just like a huge relief.”

Landlords also benefited from the program, said Myrna Lattin, Keeley Property Management property manager. The business oversees more than 300 properties; Upwards of 100 homes received some ERAP assistance.

Lattin told KTVB over the phone she is very sad to see the money running out.

“Some of our folks run into hard times through no fault of their own,” she said. “This has been able to really help those folks out and, in turn, helps us because we manage these properties, helps our owners, and of course, we benefit because we can pay our bills.”

Unfortunately, Watson said there are not many options available for people still needing help. Even with BCACHA’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, they can only help about 25% of the people in need.

Other nonprofits around town also have extremely long waitlists. To help alleviate some of the pressure, she said Idaho’s legislature should step up and invest more money into affordable housing.

Watson said for some people, rent has increased anywhere from $300 to $900 a month.

“I think this has exposed a great deal of need in our communities that has been unmet prior to the pandemic, was met for a short time while we had funds to administer,” she said. “Now those funds are going away, and the need isn’t.”

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