Quarter 1 2021, Volume 9 Issue 1
Partnership for Housing Affordability: Addressing Housing Needs Through a Housing Resource Line
Getting help for housing needs can be a complicated task, especially when one is in crisis. That is why the Partnership for Housing Affordability (PHA) launched the Housing Resource Line (HRL) in September 2020.
For several years, the City of Richmond has had a Homeless Crisis Line that was receiving a high volume of calls from people who were not its intended audience. Many callers needed assistance with affordable housing, avoiding eviction, foreclosure prevention, or other housing services. As a result, the HRL is the first comprehensive housing resource in Virginia for residents seeking services outside of homeless prevention and assistance. The HRL filled an important gap in resource referrals for these callers. It can serve as a model for housing counseling agencies looking to develop a model in their communities for clients with a variety of housing needs across numerous service providers.
The HRL operates 5 days per week with 3 staff, coordinating entry to more than 50 participating housing service providers. Callers complete a brief intake process to help determine which housing services they are eligible for and which will best meet their needs. For residents in need of housing counseling services, the HRL refers callers to HUD-approved housing counseling agencies such as Virginia Housing.
PHA uses referral software to triage callers’ needs. The software securely collects demographic information allowing PHA to refer callers to resources via email or text message.
In the first 2 months, the HRL received over 900 calls. The top 3 needs included financial assistance, affordable rental housing options, and legal support. Forty-seven percent of callers indicated their housing needs were impacted by COVID-19. Over 60% of callers had a disability or medical issue compounding their housing issues. Seventy-six percent earned less than $20,000 per year, below 30% of Richmond’s area median income.
Communicating with service providers has been key to the program’s success. PHA meets quarterly with service providers to provide programmatic updates and track referrals. PHA is not a direct service provider, so its staff can be objective and neutral when working with residents in need and direct them to the most helpful resources for their specific situations.
The HRL is funded through a mix of public and private sources. It supports the goals outlined in the Richmond Regional Housing Framework, PHA’s action plan for affordable housing. PHA’s HRL has been a timely and important service amid the COVID-19 national emergency.