LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) Board approved a Newcomer Rental Subsidy (NRS) program that will provide temporary support for refugees and other immigrant populations coming to the state. The NRS program will give refugees, asylees and other new populations from areas such as Ukraine, Cuba, Haiti and African countries the opportunity to apply for up to 12 months of rental subsidy assistance and, according to the MSHDA, will help ensure that families “successfully integrate to communities, become self-sufficient, and thrive.”

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Funding for the program is financed through the Michigan Housing and Community Development Fund (HCDF) and is administered by MSHDA. $4 million is designated to the Office of Global Michigan (OGM) to manage over a two-year period. The funding grants will be used to “address the immediate needs for affordable housing for refugees and other immigrant populations, with priority on new arrivals.” The monies will be distributed among eligible, relevant partner agencies across the state.

The amount of financial support per eligible household will range from about $300 to $500 a month depending on household size. Households consisting of a single individual or couple will receive $300 a month; households of three to five individuals will receive $400 a month and households of six or more individuals will receive $500 a month. The OGM may also approve a higher amount per household on a case-by-basis such as a large family with a single parent or persons with disabilities.

The MSHDA says that the funding will support approximately 400-450 eligible households for a period of up to 12 months and that based on the average family size, the money could impact roughly 1,500 to 2000 individuals per year.

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Amy Hovey, executive director of MSHDA, says, “In line with the Statewide Housing Plan, one of our key goals at MSHDA is to increase access to safe and affordable housing across Michigan for everyone – including those seeking to build a new life here. This program is truly a win-win, as it addresses the most pressing barrier to refugee resettlement by meeting housing needs while setting up families for success with increased employment and opportunity.”

In order to receive the funds, the immigrants must be enrolled in an OGM-funded or equivalent employment placement program if not already employed. Eligibility in the rental subsidy program will be evaluated three times a year to determine continuation of assistance in the program.

Additional program services will be provided for free including support with rental expectations; move-in assistance; budgeting and money management training; connection to mainstream resources and employment services.

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MSHDA says, “Michigan has been a welcoming state and resettled over 27,000 refugees in the last decade, with over 6,000 arriving in fiscal year 2022. Their positive impact on our state’s economy through their participation in our workforce and increasing the diversity of our communities has been demonstrated throughout the years and through research.”

They continue, “Affordable housing for newly arrived refugees continues to be a critical need and a challenge for these new populations, as well as for local community partners and sponsors who provide resettlement support. Increased access to affordable and better housing contribute to lower poverty rates, better homes, expanding on areas where they live, creating more employment opportunities, and maintaining dignity.”

The MSHDA points to other programs that have helped immigrants like the Covid Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) statewide and the Wayne County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) which provided much needed assistance and a great relief while the newcomers dealt with finding meaningful employment and dealing with health issues as a result of the pandemic. They also cited earmarked federal funding for specific populations such as Afghan and Ukrainian nationals under the Operations Afghan Welcome and Uniting for Ukraine programs as providing some support; however, they say it excluded all other newcomer populations from receiving the same benefits.

The $4 million that the NRS program will utilize from the HCDF came from $50 million of federal funding that was appropriated to the HCDF from the American Rescue Plan Act Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund to expand access to affordable and attainable housing for populations or regions disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.