Rapid re-housing

Rapid re-housing (RRH) is the provision of short-term rental assistance and services to help individuals and families quickly exit homelessness.  This approach was initially created to help individuals and families who lost their housing and who spent unnecessarily long and expensive periods in shelter or transitional housing trying to save money for or arrange a new place to live. It was considered to be more efficient and effective to help them immediately move into housing of their own, spending few or even no days in shelter.

Based upon the pioneering success of this approach in a few communities, in 2009 Congress provided HUD with significant funding for RRH to ensure that homelessness did not increase during the Great Recession, through the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, part of the American Recovery and Re-investment Act. HUD also made rapid re-housing an eligible use of ongoing HUD McKinney-Vento funding.  The Department of Veterans Affairs embraced the concept as well, and provides funding under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program.

As the concept evolved, the core components of RRH were defined:[1]

  • Housing identification – Programs recruit landlords to provide housing for RRH participants and help households find and secure rental housing.
  • Rent and movein assistance – Assistance provided to help cover move-in costs and deposits as well as ongoing rent and/or utility payments.
  • Rapid re-housing case management and services – Programs connect participants to community-based resources that can help them maintain housing stability; for example, by addressing psycho-social challenges and finding ways to increase their incomes.

While RRH is a relatively new intervention, there is evidence of its outcomes. The federal agencies funding RRH and a number of local communities have measured outcomes that include whether program participants (individuals and families) were living in permanent housing following the end of assistance, and whether they returned to homelessness within a specified period of time. Overall, these results indicate high rates of placement and few returns to homelessness. [2]  Evidence from a randomized controlled trial of homeless families with children shows that families who received priority access to rapid re-housing assistance  moved into their own place more quickly and were significantly more likely to be living in their own place during the first year after random assignment than those receiving usual care. It also found that RRH and usual care families returned to homelessness at the same rate, and that RRH was less expensive than usual care.[3]

While core components of rapid re-housing have been identified, communities structure the intervention in different ways and different funding sources allow varying degrees of flexibility. For example, some programs place more emphasis on front-end case management and one-time financial assistance than on rent subsidies provided over a limited time period. Short-term rental assistance often is provided for six months or less, but can last up to two years, and can cover all of the rent or only a portion. Some programs are adopting a “progressive engagement” model in which the amount of assistance needed is re-evaluated over time based on the actual experience of participants in maintaining housing.

Michelle Wood is working on an up-to-date synthesis of the evidence base that will be available on this website soon.

[1] Rapid Re-Housing: A History and Core Components. April 2014. National Alliance to End Homelessness.

[2] Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP): Year 3 & Final Program Summary. June 2016. Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs and Office of Community Planning and Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) FY 2015 Annual Report. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  Daniel Gubits,et al., Understanding Rapid Rehousing:  Systematic Review of Rapid Re-housing Outcomes Literature.  Abt Associates, forthcoming  2017.

[3]  Daniel Gubits, Tom McCall, and Michelle Wood, “Family Options Study:  Effects on Family Living Situation,” Cityscape, forthcoming 2017.