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Virginia's rent relief program to close applications in May

Multifamily apartment structure
Virginia's rental market has a shortage of affordable units. At least 200,000 additional units need to be built, and nearly 1 million Virginia households are burdened by housing costs. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Meg Schiffres and Sara McCloskey contributed to this report

The Virginia Rent Relief Program will no longer accept new applicants next month. 

The  Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development is closing the portal on its website where people can apply for relief at midnight, May 15.  

Due to a surge in applications, department officials say they’re concerned those requests could exceed the federal funding that’s currently available. 

Concerns about funding levels for the program were initially raised in December 2021. The housing department’s former director, Erik Johnston, told members of the Virginia Housing Commission that the program was essentially a “band-aid” that highlighted the urgent need for more affordable housing in the commonwealth.  

According to a state study conducted by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, also known as JLARC, Virginia has a shortage of at least 200,000 affordable rental units and the median home sales price rose 28% over the past four years to $270,000 in 2021.  

Virginia’s rent relief program started in 2020 to provide temporary emergency rental assistance to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s won national praise by tenant advocates for working to quickly distribute federal funds that other states have left unspent.  

As of March 2022, it has distributed more than $713 million to nearly 105,000 households in Virginia. State data from January shows Black households accounted for 60% of those served by the program, white renters made up 20%, and 10% of relief went to Hispanic or Latino renters.  

At 11:59 PM on May 15, the application portal will shut down to new applicants. In the meantime, people can still apply for assistance. Officials say any application submitted after April 21 will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.  

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.