Learn how immigrant housing assistance can bridge the gaps in services with equitable language services with these tips.

Although it’s illegal for rental agencies and mortgage lenders to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their English proficiency, we would be remiss not to acknowledge a clear reality: Individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) tend to face greater housing instability than their English-speaking counterparts.

This makes immigrant housing assistance absolutely critical to ensuring that individuals with LEP have a fair chance at securing housing and remaining housed.

When it comes to home ownership, areas with high concentrations of LEP have been found to have a rate of home ownership that’s 5% lower than those with lower populations of individuals with LEP. Meanwhile, some rental agencies still refuse to rent to individuals with LEP — one in New York even caught the attention of the US Department of Justice after being accused of refusing to work with LEP individuals even after they offered to pay for their own interpreting services.

Communities with LEP comprise a diverse group of people — immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and other displaced individuals, just to name a few. Among individuals with LEP, refugees and asylum seekers face unique challenges, as they often lack the resources to prepare for immigration or establish themselves in the country after leaving politically unstable regions.

As refugees and asylum seekers arrive in the country, one of their most pressing needs is finding and securing housing accommodations. These individuals tend to be some of the most vulnerable to housing instability, as they may not be immediately ready to navigate the complex housing market upon arrival, especially if they don’t have a strong grasp of English or an established network within the country.

Organizations like housing counseling agencies (HCAs) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provide immigrant housing assistance resources and services to equip these folks with the aid that they need. However, it’s crucial to provide these services alongside adequate language access services; otherwise, immigrants and refugees with LEP may not be able to take full advantage of housing assistance.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the intersection of language access and immigrant housing assistance, highlighting the importance of equitable language access to support immigrant populations in their pursuit of suitable housing.

Language Access and Immigrant Housing Assistance

To effectively assist immigrant populations with their housing needs, it’s important that housing assistance — whether that’s emergency shelter needs or helping members of a family avoid eviction from their rental unit — be provided in a language that individuals can readily understand.

There are a lot of key elements that go into making sure that individuals with LEP are able to find and access housing assistance services — here are just a few tips for housing organizations to enhance outreach and support for individuals with LEP:

Develop a Culturally and Linguistically Competent Outreach Strategy

While it’s clearly important for agencies to provide services to individuals with LEP in a language they can understand, it’s equally important for said agencies to reach those individuals in the first place. After all, if individuals struggling with housing are not aware of or do not fully understand the available assistance, they may not be able to access the help they need.

Because of this, it’s important that HCAs and other organizations providing housing assistance to immigrants make an effort to connect with individuals in their advertising and outreach materials — for example, translating (or even transcreating) informational pamphlets into languages that are in high demand within the local community, or directing social media and advertising campaigns toward non-English-speaking communities that are most in need.

Collaborate with Local Community-Based Organizations

Partnering with CBOs that have established connections with immigrant communities can significantly improve language access in housing assistance. These organizations can provide valuable insight and cultural expertise to ensure effective communication and service delivery.

Not only can they help you with your outreach plans, but they can also help give you an idea of the languages that are most in demand, and also provide consulting as you develop a language access plan.

Localize Your Website

Although English is the most common language on the internet, it’s clear that people prefer accessing websites in their native language. Individuals with LEP will almost certainly be using the internet in a language other than English — so if your website is English-only, people in need may not easily find your website on search engines.

That makes it absolutely essential for housing organization websites to localize their websites to cater to diverse linguistic communities. For tips on localization practices, visit our recent blog post on localization mistakes to avoid. 

Establish a Comprehensive Language Access Plan

A robust language access plan is an absolute must-have for any organization providing immigrant housing assistance. A good language access plan will guide the ways in which your organization interacts with individuals who have LEP, including (but not limited to) the following actions:

  • Conducting demographic research on the languages that are most in-demand within your locale
  • Identifying vital documents to be translated into multiple languages
  • Providing interpretation services when needed (in-person or otherwise)
  • Staffing your agency with bilingual employees who can readily communicate with individuals when an interpreter is not immediately available

These are just a few important considerations when establishing a language access plan — for more information on creating an effective language access plan, click here.

Create an Online Portal with Language Support

Developing an online portal specifically designed for immigrant housing assistance, translated into multiple languages, can help streamline things for individuals with LEP. This portal can help connect clients with housing counselors who speak their preferred language and can also allow individuals to easily access translated vital documents. Individuals can also use the portal to schedule counseling sessions and communicate whether or not they’ll need an interpreter before their session begins, so the agency can be well-prepared ahead of time.


One’s level of English proficiency should never impact their ability to secure or remain in suitable housing. By recognizing the intersection of language access services and immigrant housing assistance, HCAs and other organizations providing housing assistance can serve their clients with LEP effectively and efficiently. Here are five tips to get you started:

  • Develop a culturally and linguistically competent outreach strategy so that immigrant populations can easily find and access your services.
  • Collaborate with local community-based organizations to gain a better understanding of what services immigrant communities in your area need most.
  • Localize your website to better facilitate individuals’ ability to find your services while searching the web.
  • Establish a comprehensive language access plan so that you’re well-prepared to work with individuals who have LEP.
  • Create an online portal with language support to streamline things for both clients and staff working in your organization.

Avantpage is proud to help housing organizations provide effective and inclusive language services for some of the most vulnerable individuals. If your housing agency is looking to develop a language access plan or simply needs translation, localization, or interpreting services, we’re here to help — contact us today at [email protected] or (530) 750-2040 to learn more about our services.