With the pandemic and rising housing costs continuing to put a strain on families, a new Franklin County partnership is preparing to evaluate strategies to keep them in their homes. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab North America office (J-PAL North America) announced Friday
that it will be partnering with Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services (FCDJFS) over the next year to assess the impact of an eviction prevention workshop.
Over the next year, the Agency will receive technical support and $49,994 in grant funding from the MIT-based research center to understand the impact of an eviction prevention workshop. FCDJFS was one of just five state and local agencies from across the nation selected to partner with J-PAL North America in evaluating an array of strategies to alleviate poverty.
“Stable housing should not be a luxury, but for far too many Franklin County families it has become one,” Deputy Franklin County Administrator Joy Bivens said. “We need to view our community’s affordable housing crisis through both a social determinants of health and racial equity lens. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with J-PALNorth America to ensure we are pursuing research-based interventions that, yes, address immediate housing needs, but also provide long-term stability so they can climb the economic ladder.”
Since 1997, families experiencing housing instability in Franklin County have been able to apply for emergency rental assistance through the Agency’s Prevention, Retention, and Contingency (PRC) program
. PRC provides families at or below 165 percent of the federal poverty level with financial assistance for a variety of services, including housing, transportation, utility aid and disaster-relief.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Franklin County has seen an upsurge in applications for its housing assistance programs and has used federal funds to expand access to and amount of assistance available for families facing evictions. Franklin County’s new PRC Emergency Rental Assistance program helps families who’ve been impacted by COVID-19 cover the cost of up to 100 percent of delinquent rent and another three months of additional rent, as well as help with utilities. FCDJFS has approved over $4 million in rental assistance to help keep over 2,400 families in their homes so far this year.
With this new partnership, FCDJFS will work with J-PAL North America to examine the impact of an eviction prevention workshop offered by Community Mediation Services on the number of evictions for a population currently receiving emergency rental assistance. This evaluation will examine primary outcomes connected to eviction rates and secondary outcomes of housing safety and sustainability, cost burden, participant mobility, and participants’ rates of return for further rental assistance.
FCDJFS has a strong interest in finding ways to prevent evictions and stabilize housing. The randomized evaluation will be designed to test if providing an eviction prevention workshop to emergency rental assistance recipients can play a role in this.
Much research has focused on using intensive case management services to stabilize housing. This research will help evaluate whether a less intensive, less expensive intervention can contribute to housing stability.
The evaluation aligns well with policymaker and researcher interests to ensure safe and affordable housing. The partnership will have great potential to not only improve resources local to Franklin County, but also to provide a useful model for other government agencies facing similar challenges.
J-PAL North America is a research center based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Economics. It supports research using randomized evaluations to answer critical policy questions in the fight against poverty.
In addition to FCDJFS, J-PAL North America is also partnering with the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the New Mexico Public Education Department, Puerto Rico’s Department of Economic Development and Commerce, and Oregon’s Jackson County Fire District 3. Together, they will develop rigorous evaluations of policies and programs related to environment, education, economic security, and housing stability.
The Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services provides timely public assistance benefits and builds community partnership through inclusion, responsiveness and innovation. Learn more at https://jfs.franklincountyohio.gov and follow FCDJFS on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.