Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, in partnership with the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA), secured $200,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding this month for an innovative pilot program that will help low-income renters in Delaware build credit.
The Tenant Rent-Reporting Pilot Program will subsidize the cost of reporting rent payments to the major credit bureaus for low-income tenants and housing assistance recipients in Delaware, allowing those families to use their rent payments to build their credit history.
“We know that payment history is the primary factor in determining credit scores, but unlike many other recurring payments, rental payments are not automatically reflected on credit reports,” said Sen. Gay. “This pilot program will fill that large gap by ensuring that on-time rental payments are reported to credit agencies, thereby providing struggling families access to new opportunities to improve their financial standing.”
The goal of the program is to help renters increase their credit score by demonstrating reliable payment history. Although rent payments are often the largest monthly household expense for tenants, most rental payments are not reported to the large credit reporting bureaus. As a result, many renters’ credit scores fail to reflect their true credit risk. This, in turn, can lead to a decrease in financial mobility and maintain barriers to home ownership, personal and business loans, jobs requiring credit checks, and affordable financial products like insurance.
“The Tenant Rent-Reporting Pilot is among the first statewide housing programs to utilize ARPA funding in an innovative and relevant way,” said Eugene R. Young Jr., Director of the Delaware State Housing Authority. “The investment in this initiative will ensure that Delawareans can achieve greater financial and housing success. The agency’s priority is to consider sustainability and expansion while implementing the pilot program.”
A third-party administrator selected by DSHA will operate the pilot program. The program will subsidize 12 consecutive months of rent reporting service for up to 400 tenants who either have an income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level or receive housing assistance from one of the state’s five public housing authorities. The program is expected to begin in the fall of 2022 and conclude in 2024.
Participation in the program will be voluntary, and while all tenants who meet those qualifications will be eligible, the program will focus on recruiting tenants who belong to historically disadvantaged populations, including people of color. The program will also ensure geographical representation of tenants throughout the state. By helping tenants raise their credit scores, they will be better equipped to transition away from housing assistance and into the private rental market or homeownership.
“Homeownership remains part of the American Dream,” said Beau Zebley, Chair of the Delaware Association of REALTORS® Public Policy Committee. “The Delaware Association of REALTORS® fully supports programs, services, and resources that can make that possible for the people of the First State. We believe that the rent reporting pilot program brought forward by the DSHA could help renters improve their financial stability and help to position them for homeownership. We thank Sen. Gay and the DSHA for spearheading this initiative and are eager to see the results of the program.”
The launch of the Tenant Rent-Reporting Pilot Program follows changes occurring at the federal level. The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) updated its underwriting software in 2021 so that lenders can now automatically detect applicants’ recurring rent payments and consider that information in their credit assessment. The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) recently began providing closing cost credits on multi-family loans for owners of rental properties who agree to report tenants’ on-time rental payments.