$263 Million Rental Assistance Bill Passes Legislature
February 11, 2021
In a huge win for Alabama’s tenants and housing providers, the Alabama Legislature just passed house bill (HB) 231 appropriating over $263 million in rental assistance funds. We greatly appreciate the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) and Senator Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), as well House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville), Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper), and members of the Legislature for their diligent work in getting this bill passed.
“Many folks were unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “Like other federal coronavirus funds, The Emergency Rental Assistance program will fully utilize these resources for the benefit of the citizens of our state, and we are working as quickly as possible to put programs in place.”
Alabama REALTORS® CEO Jeremy Walker explained the organization's continued advocacy efforts and expressed great appreciation to the Ivey administration for pursuing relief opportunities for Alabamians.
“Alabama REALTORS® has been vocal in advocating for a robust rental assistance program in Alabama utilizing CARES Act Funds to help both tenants and housing providers who are struggling through this pandemic,” said Walker. “COVID has had a devastating toll on families across Alabama, and this rental assistance will help families avoid eviction while also ensuring property owners can continue to provide housing to Alabamians. We applaud Governor Ivey and the Legislature in their efforts to make this a reality.”
The federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program became law in late 2020 with a set aside of $25 billion for tenants and housing providers. Alabama REALTORS® and local REALTOR® associations worked with the Governor’s Office and eligible local governments respectively to encourage participation in the program. These efforts resulted in Alabama receiving over $326 million to cover rent and utilities for those Alabamians affected by COVID-19.
Administering Agency – The Alabama Housing Finance Authority (AHFA) will administer the state’s emergency rental assistance program. Although applications are not yet available, AHFA has preliminary information on its webpage here.
Relief Funds Available – Over $326 million is available to cover rent, back-rent, utility bills and past-due utility bills for eligible tenants. Of the $326 million, just over $263 million was received by the state and the remainder was received by local governments as follows:
- $6,686,362.30 to Baldwin County
- $6,272,092.60 to the City of Birmingham
- $6,007,644.10 to the City of Huntsville
- $13,502,417.90 to Jefferson County
- $5,223,224.50 to Madison County
- $12,376,572.40 to Mobile County
- $6,783,767 to Montgomery County
- $6,270,654.90 to Tuscaloosa County
The U.S. Department of Treasury issued broad guidelines for the funds detailed below:
- Eligible Recipients: Eligible renter households are those in which at least one individual:
- Is obligated to pay rent on a residential dwelling;
- Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced household income reduction, incurred significant costs or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19;
- Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; or,
- The household income is at or below 80 percent of the area median income.
- Eligible Costs for Renters: Rent, rental arrears, utility and home energy costs and/or arrears, and other housing costs.
- Priority Applicants: When reviewing/approving applicants, the state has discretion but must prioritize:
- Households with an individual who has been unemployed for 90 days before applying; and,
- Households below 50 percent area median income.
- Applications: Renter can apply; or the housing provider can also apply for rental assistance on behalf of the resident but must inform the renter and secure renter’s consent.
- How Made: Payments are sent directly to the housing provider. Residents may receive payment directly from the administrative agency and pay their provider if that provider does not want to participate in the program.
- Payment Limit: Rental assistance payments are limited to 12 months, with the possibility of an additional 3 months if necessary and funding available.
- Arrears First: Rental arrears must be paid first before prospective rent payments are made.
- Not Federally Taxable: Payments are not included in the renter’s income.
HB 231 now goes to Governor Ivey for her signature. Additional updates and information will follow in Real Estate Alabama as they become available.