“It’s important to be accountable to the work that happened and to say this is what happened and this is the impact that it had on people’s lives,” said Heather Vaikona, CEO of Lift To Rise.
A new study from the University of Southern California aims to shed more light on the housing crisis in Riverside County and the need for rental assistance post-COVID-19.
“There’s not enough housing and folks don’t earn enough income for their very hard work in order to stay housed,” said Vaikona.
In 20-20, Riverside County launched the “Emergency Rental Assistance Program” in partnership with Lift To Rise and Socal United Way to provide financial assistance to county residents during the height of the pandemic. The program provided direct rent and utility assistance between the months of June 2020 through November 2022.
“We deployed together across Riverside County more than $300 million of funding that kept more than 120,000 people housed over that 2 year period during the pandemic,” said Vaikona.
The United Lift program helped keep about 40,000 Coachella Valley residents in their homes during the height of the pandemic.
“The data to those of us that are doing the work on a daily basis isn’t surprising that we see the majority of folks that are struggling are the really hard-working, low-income friends and neighbors that really drive this economy, but don’t make enough money to stay housed,” said Vaikona.
Key findings show a strong and disproportionate need for rental assistance in the county, as well as an overrepresentation among applicants.
“Almost more than half of the folks who applied were single parents, and the majority of single parents who applied were single mothers and the majority of single mothers who applied are single black and brown mothers,” said Vaikona.
Researchers from the USC Price School Of Public Policy worked with Riverside County to help evaluate the United Lift Rental Assistance program.
More than 2,000 tenants and 350 landlords were surveyed for the report to further understand the experiences they faced working with United Lift and housing conditions in Riverside County.
A follow up survey was conducted to assess the conditions for respondents at a different point in time – specifically how their housing outcomes changed directly because of receiving rental assistance.
“That really helps underscore the dire need in the population for permanent solutions and we can use this as a tool to continue advocating for long-term permanent solutions to housing insecurity,” said Vaikona.
A virtual panel to discuss the full findings of the report will be held on Wednesday, March 8 at 10 a.m. The discussion will include a senior advisor to President Biden and Housing And Community Development Department Director for the State of California Gustavo Velasquez.
For more information, visit lifttorise.org or visit the link here.