Funding approved to continue hotel stays for emergency rental recipients 

  • The Quality Inn on Route 120 in Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. The hotel has become a de facto homeless shelter, housing individuals and families in all 48 rooms through the federally-funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program facilitated by New Hampshire Housing and Tri-County Community Action. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Monitor staff
Published: 12/7/2022 4:23:22 PM
Modified: 12/7/2022 4:23:01 PM

Hotel stays for people with emergency rental assistance vouchers will continue through the winter, thanks to contracts approved by the Executive Council on Wednesday.

An additional $20 million was officially approved to support the emergency housing program, but not without questions about the sustainability of these temporary stays and costs of maintaining the program.

The contract, which allocates federal money from the American Rescue Plan to New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, will allow for those currently housed in hotels or motels throughout the state to remain into the new year. For individuals with children, costs will be covered through June 15, 2023. For individuals without children, support will end on April 1, 2023.

In the Concord area, individuals are currently staying in the Holiday Inn on Main Street, Best Western on Hall Street and Quality Inn in Loudon.

The Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery estimated that hotel stays cost on average $200 per night. This price tag per room allows for flexibility with spending on hotel stays – recognizing that some may charge higher prices in winter months while other rooms may be more affordable.

“What we’re trying to do is get a number that we feel has to be a fairness for all parties that are involved. But we’re also trying to have a number that has some ability to flex in one way or another,” said Taylor Caswell, the commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs.

The emergency relief office will work with Community Action Programs and New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority to ensure that the average state spending is $200 for one room per night, according to Caswell,

Although the interim spending continues a program that state leaders feared would end – after the U.S. Treasury did not award New Hampshire’s request for direct rental assistance funding – the program will still wind down in the spring, leaving municipalities responsible for providing assistance or ending the program. 

As municipalities craft budgets heading into the new year, allocating money to support families in need has been a point of concern for towns and cities, said Councilor Cinde Warmington. 

“The municipalities are just trying to budget how much they're going to be responsible for and they have been unable to get information from the Community Action Programs about how many families are in hotels and what the city of origin is for those communities so they know who's going to be responsible for actually including money in their own budgets,” she said. 

Caswell’s office offered a solution: The program administration will release a monthly report that includes the number of households that are in hotels in a given municipality, as well as estimates about the number of residents that may be living in a hotel elsewhere or those who are residing in hotels but are non-residents of the area. 

These reports, which Caswell estimates could be available beginning in February, will allow for municipalities to understand the impacts of the program and better illustrate the housing needs in a community. 

Pandemic emergency rental assistance also provided aid with monthly rent and utility bills. However, the funds approved Wednesday were specifically allocated for spending on hotel or motel rooms.

Councilor Ted Gatsas questioned why these funds were not used to help people find apartments, which could present a lower price point per month. 

But with a statewide vacancy rate of 0.5 percent, limited availability made that a challenge, said Caswell. 

“I think given the fact that we got a lot of people in housing situations, and again, we're talking about a lot of communities in rural areas that are utilizing these hotel arrangements, where there there's quite literally nowhere else for them to go,” he said. “So I understand the point. Given where we are right now with the housing situation in New Hampshire this is our best option.”

With the program eventually coming to a close, these funds will only be available to individuals who have already applied for assistance prior to the state closing emergency rental assistance applications in October. 


MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Michaela Towfighi is a Report for America corps member covering the Two New Hampshires for the Monitor. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in public policy and journalism and media studies in 2022. At Duke she covered education, COVID-19, the 2020 election and helped edit stories about the Durham County Courthouse for The 9th Street Journal and the triangle area's alt-weekly Indy Week. Her story about a family grappling with a delayed trial for a fatal car accident in Concord won first place in Duke’s Melcher Family Award for Excellence in Journalism. Towfighi is an American expat who calls London, England, home despite being born in Boston.



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