Many families have faced challenges paying rent during the pandemic, and landlords, especially mom-and-pop landlords, have struggled to make their housing payments as their rental income decreased. The pandemic has disproportionately affected low-income renters and Black and Hispanic mom-and-pop landlords, who are more likely to rent their properties to low-income households. Rental assistance can alleviate financial stress, but our latest survey with Avail shows that most landlords and tenants are not aware of government rental assistance, and very few have received it.

Vouchers provided through the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program can help low-income families afford rent even when they experience income disruptions. But many landlords have never accepted vouchers, potentially because of program requirements or lack of awareness of the program. During the pandemic, however, receiving vouchers may become more attractive to landlords because vouchers guarantee a portion of the rent will be paid by the public housing authority, regardless of the tenant’s financial circumstances.

In February 2021, Avail, an online platform serving do-it-yourself, mom-and-pop landlords, surveyed their landlords and tenants about circumstances during the pandemic, including questions about vouchers. More than 1,200 landlords and 2,500 tenants responded.

Our analysis of the survey results found that tenants with vouchers owe less back rent, and landlords have had positive experiences with voucher holders. These results suggest vouchers have helped tenants and landlords weather the pandemic’s financial effects. Program improvements and efforts to boost awareness could help even more tenants and landlords benefit from vouchers.

Read the full article about housing vouchers by Jung Hyun Choi and Laurie Goodman at Urban Institute.