Oregon Rental Assistance (copy)

A now leasing sign hangs off an apartment building staircase in southeast Portland in December. The state will begin accepting applications for emergency rental assistance Jan. 26.

Oregon’s housing agency will resume accepting applications for its emergency rent assistance program Jan. 26 — but anticipates that the program could again become quickly oversubscribed.

State lawmakers allocated $100 million to the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program in December shortly after Oregon Housing and Community Services announced it would temporarily stop accepting rent assistance applications because it had used or allocated all $289 million in available federal rent assistance.

The state housing agency anticipates that it will need to use up to a half of the new state funding to provide assistance to renters who applied for help before Dec. 1. That will leave the agency with enough funding for 6,700 to 9,300 new applicants.

The agency plans to keep the application portal open for only about 3-5 weeks, given the limited resources. The state will prioritize applicants who apply during that window based on need, as opposed to a first-come, first-served basis.

“We fully expect that we’re going to receive more applications than funding that we have available,” said Andrea Bell, director of housing stabilization at the state housing agency.

Renters who apply for assistance, either through the state portal or local programs, will be protected from eviction from when they apply until their application is processed under new state regulations adopted in December. Lawmakers adopted the new rules after a massive backlog in rent assistance applications to the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program last year put thousands of renters at risk of evictions.

The state has made significant strides in tackling that backlog since it closed the application portal Dec. 1. As of Wednesday, Jan. 12, the state had paid out $235 million to nearly 34,000 renters in need. Bell said that about 14,000 applications still needed to be processed.

Bell said the state will apply for additional funding from the federal government in the coming months, but does not yet know if it will receive more money. She said even after the state program runs out of funding, local counties and cities that also received money from the federal government may still have resources available to provide rent assistance.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury announced that it would be sending Oregon another $1.16 million in rent assistance funds because the state had already distributed a high percentage of its funding and had demonstrated a need for more money. Oregon is one of just five states to receive additional funds.

Portland, Multnomah County and Lane County each received about $50,000 in additional funding from the federal government last week as well. But the federal government pulled $1.3 million in rent assistance funding from Marion County, which had paid out just 14.5% of the $10.4 million it was originally provided for federal rent assistance.

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