Eviction Moratorium to Expire Saturday; NAHRO Urges Extension

Despite efforts from House Democratic leaders to extend the federal eviction moratorium, which expires Saturday, July 31, no vote was issued to extend the order as of Friday afternoon. Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) publicly advocated for the Biden administration to act unilaterally to protect renters at risk of eviction due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

About 11 months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) enacted the federal eviction moratorium to prevent the spread of the deadly virus among families and individuals that could be at high risk if made homeless through eviction. The public health measure has been extended on several instances, with the last extension made in June. The moratorium offered uniform protections to renters across the nation.

With the COVID-19 delta variant surging across the nation, now is not the time to put vulnerable families at risk by ending the eviction moratorium. NAHRO calls on Congress and the Administration to extend the moratorium through at least the end of September 2021.

Whether or not the eviction moratorium expires, NAHRO’s housing agency members remain committed to using every available resource to keep as many people in their homes as possible. Nationwide, NAHRO members continue to work with their residents and with local and national partners to provide support and aid – especially to those who have been most impacted by the pandemic. We are continually looking for new and better ways to help.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program is a vital and cost-effective tool to help people stay in their homes. As Treasury, HUD, and state and local entities work to distribute these much-needed funds as quickly as possible, we also look forward to the passage of a robust FY 2022 HUD budget and additional housing resources that will further help to provide the safety and stability of a home to all who need it.

NAHRO Interim CEO Mike Gerber statement on extending the eviction moratorium and quickly distributing Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds.

As more information is released on the status of the eviction moratorium, NAHRO will continue to provide updates.

Join Us!! NAHRO Summer Symposium is Tomorrow!

Please join National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) for our 2021 Summer Symposium on universal vouchers and expansion of the housing voucher program tomorrow, July 13, 2021. There is no cost to attend the NAHRO Summer Symposium! Register at https://www.nahro.org/events/summer-symposium/registration/.

The NAHRO Summer Symposium is a day-long event on the present and future of the Housing Choice Voucher program. The event will bring thought leaders from across the country along with housing industry professional together to discuss the expansion of the housing voucher program. There is no registration fee to attend the Summer Symposium. Anyone interested can register at https://www.nahro.org/events/summer-symposium/registration/ for the July 13, 2021 NAHRO Summer Symposium.

White House Summit on Eviction Prevention Best Practices

At a White House summit on eviction prevention, researchers and experts in the field shared resources and best practices from around the country.

After outlining documented long-term health and economic impacts of evictions, Matthew Desmond, director of the Eviction Lab at Princeton, focused on the problems present in eviction courts. Since so few municipalities guarantee families facing an eviction the right to counsel, many families simply don’t show up because they don’t think they can win. Labeling eviction courts those without “justice or fairness,” Desmond called for advocates to focus three alternate approaches:

  1. Advocacy – including the right to counsel, with either a lawyer or a caseworker
  2. Assistance – wraparound social services
  3. Alternative Processes – eviction diversion  

Desmond urged advocates to focus as much as possible on early stage interventions, because a third of families move between notice and filing, court records can follow families and make it harder to move into a good home, and because families can still end up moving or being harmed by court proceedings without an official eviction. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta also recommended that state courts consider issuing orders requiring landlords to apply for emergency rental assistance before filing, and alerting litigants about availability of rental assistance.  

To help stand up new eviction diversion programs that include these three pieces, the National Center for State Courts has developed an eviction diversion program that offers models, resources, and technical assistance here. Multiple administration officials repeated in today’s summit that Treasury made it clear that the $350 billion from the American Rescue Plan can be used for court-supported eviction diversion programs.

Best Practices

Experts from the field then shared their knowledge about how to make these programs work in practice. Rasheedah Phillips, Managing Attorney of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget Mary McCormack both recommended that diversion programs need a right to counsel or other tenant representation. Philadelphia passed a right to counsel law in 2019, and uses trained mediators, housing counselors, and legal representation depending on tenant need. However, Michigan has only included a right to counsel in its emergency diversion program for COVID, and it has made a significant difference in both application rates and successful cases. Prior to this program, only 4% of tenants in Detroit had representation in eviction cases.

Philadelphia has also recently passed the Renters Access Act, which prohibits landlords from rejecting potential tenants solely because of evictions or low credit scores, prohibits rejections based on failure to pay rent or utility bills during the pandemic, and requires landlords to inform potential tenants why they were rejected.

From the landlord perspective, Gilbert Winn of WinnCompanies, which houses over 45,000 tenants in more than 15 states, spoke about the program his company launched to prevent evictions, which WinnCompanies believes can serve as a blueprint for other landlords going forward. This included:

  • Long-term, sustainable payment agreements to have backpay addressed
  • Pre-court checklist before any staff can file for eviction
  • Incentives to property staff and property legal counsel to lower eviction filings

With zero evictions in the last 15 months with all 15,000 participating families, the program has been extremely successful, and WinnCompanies intends to use it into the post-pandemic period.

More resources on eviction prevention can be found here.

Senate Hearing on Bipartisan Bills to Increase Access to Housing

On Thursday June 24th, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a full committee hearing, “Examining Bipartisan Bills to Increase Access to Housing,” to consider the following legislation:

Witnesses included Lisa Mensah, CEO of the Opportunity Finance Network, and Nan Roman, CEO and President of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, who both testified about the need to rehabilitate existing housing and build more housing in order to address the current crisis in affordable housing and homelessness. American Enterprise Institute witness Howard Husock argued against expanding Housing Choice Vouchers without making sure that emergency rental assistance was being disbursed more efficiently. Mr. Husock also testified in favor of the Moving to Work approach to voucher rental contracts for new tenants that use flat rent for a fixed-period, independent of tenant income, so that tenants can avoid an income cliff and put any additional income into an escrow account.

In his questions, ranking member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) was very interested in this MTW model and the possibility that the current model might discourage increased work, following up on his opening statement criticizing elevated unemployment benefits. Both Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked about bills that would collect more data on different aspects of the housing crisis, and ways that agencies could collaborate on high-needs populations, including work to prevent evictions and services for vouchers to high-opportunity areas. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Sen. Cortez Masto (D-NV) both asked questions in support of the Native American Homeownership Act. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) argued that none of the bills under discussion addressed the current address “the failed state of our housing finance system,” focusing on the lack of diversity and competition in the mortgage market. To make credit more available for mortgages, Sen. Scott argued that the committee also needed to look for serious, bipartisan approaches to comprehensive mortgage finance reform.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked about the overall disrepair in the nation’s housing stock, the $70 billion backlog in repairs in public housing, and the estimated 10,000 units of public housing lost per year as a result of these deferred costs. She reiterated her belief that housing is infrastructure, and the importance of making public housing safe for families who are there now. Commenting on the current infrastructure talks, she argued that the current state of housing puts families at risk and that Congress must go further than the President has proposed in order to meet the needs of families.

HUD Briefing Gives New Details on American Jobs Plan

Secretary Fudge and HUD Senior Advisors led a briefing on Monday June 21st to update housing advocates on details of the American Jobs Plan (AJP), and urge continued support across advocacy networks. In the briefing, she called the AJP a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to address decades of disinvestment in moderate and low-income housing, and its $40 billion Capital Fund investment “the biggest down payment we will make,” while simultaneously acknowledging that the $40 billion did not go far enough. The HUD team emphasized the importance of redeveloping and preserving public housing units to the administration’s dual goals of racial equity and reducing the environmental footprint of public housing.

HUD Senior Advisor Peggy Bailey also gave a more detailed breakdown of the proposed $40 billion for the Capital Fund:  

$27 billion: Major Rehabilitation, Modernization, and Redevelopment

  • Leveraging capital through Capital Fund, mixed finance, and RAD
  • Build new units up to Faircloth
  • Includes RAD rent boost ($1 billion),  tenant-protection vouchers ($500 million), expanding the scale of Choice Neighborhoods ($2 billion)

$13 billion: Immediate Health/Safety Needs and Environmental Impact of Public Housing

  • $6 billion to Public Housing Authorities with public housing for immediate needs and renovations – capital grants by formula
  • $7 billion for health, safety, and climate needs – competitive grants
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NAHRO and Industry Partners Release Joint Statement Supporting Universal Housing Vouchers

On June 17, 2021, NAHRO along with its industry partners—CLPHA, PHADA, and the MTW Collaborative—jointly issued a statement on universal housing vouchers. Only one in five low-income households that are eligible to receive housing assistance can be served by existing programs due to limited funding. The statement discusses the need for additional rental assistance to address housing instability and prevent homelessness. The statement also discusses the strengths of the voucher program in providing scalable assistance that is proven and effective.

The full statement is can be view here.

President Kicks Off Holiday Weekend With Proposal to Increase HUD Funding

The President’s full FY 2022 budget proposal released May 28, provides additional details to the topline numbers outlined by the Administration in April. Overall, the President proposes to increase HUD funding by 15%, focusing increases core programs, climate change resiliency, disinvested communities, and HUD staff capacity.  

The Administration proposes full funding for Section 8 On-going Administrative Fees, which HUD estimates to be $2.79 billion. In addition to fully funding Admin Fees, the President calls for an additional $490.7 million in Admin Fee for PHAs to use for mobility-related social services. If funded, it would be the first time since FY 2003 the full cost of operating the voucher program has been met. NAHRO commends the Administration for the recognition of the work that PHAs are doing in communities and the resources needed to continue those vital services.

NAHRO is glad to see the Administration’s support for affordable housing and community development reflected in the FY 2022 proposed budget. This 15% increase in HUD funding includes a significant increase for the public housing capital fund to preserve existing affordable housing, $500 million more for the HOME Program, which will build more affordable housing, and an increase in resources to support the Housing Choice Voucher Program. These are all vital steps in helping to house our nation’s families, seniors and children.

NAHRO President Sunny Shaw, in response to the budget proposal
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2019 Public Charge Rule No Longer Applicable

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced they will no longer defend the 2019 Public Charge rule and have withdrawn their appeal of an Illinois court decision invalidating the 2019 Public Charge rule. The result of DHS’s action is that the court’s decision striking down the 2019 Public Charge rule will become final and the previous 1999 interim field guidance (the immediate past policy) will apply.

Under the 1999 interim field guidance, DHS will not consider a person’s receipt of Medicaid (except for Medicaid for long-term institutionalization), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination.  In addition, medical treatment or preventive services for COVID-19, including vaccines, will not be considered for public charge purposes.

DHS Statement on Litigation Related to the Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility, March 9, 2021

DHS has pre-published a final rule, Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds; Implementation of Vacatur, that removes the 2019 Public Charge rule text from the Federal Register. The rule will take affect when published which is scheduled for March 15, 2021.

CDC Eviction Moratorium Ruled Unconstitutional, Still in Effect

Late on Feb. 25, 2021, Judge J. Campbell Barker of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled, in a 21-page order, that the eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is unconstitutional.  Meaning the Federal government does not have the constitutional authority to issue the CDC eviction moratorium. The US Justice Department, attorneys for the CDC, argued that the federal government did have the authority to enact an eviction moratorium through Article 1 of the US Constitution’s power to enact laws necessary and proper to regulate interstate commerce. The Court was not convinced by this argument and ruled against the federal government. The Court did acknowledge that landlord-tenant relationship can be regulated by state law. 

Even though the CDC Eviction Moratorium was ruled unconstitutional, Judge Barker did not issue an injunction stopping the effect of the eviction moratorium. Therefore, the CDC Eviction Moratorium is still in place and effective at the time of this writing. The Justice Department released a statement on Saturday, February 27, 2021 “respectfully” disagreeing with the Court’s decision and further stating that “the [Justice] Department has appealed that decision.”  

NAHRO will continue to monitor the court activity surrounding the CDC Eviction Moratorium and will provide additional updates as warranted. 

New, Updated Emergency Rental Assistance Guidance Issued

The U.S. Department of Treasury (Treasury) has released new and updated frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) that was created by the December 27, 2020 omnibus appropriations act. These new February 22, 2021 dated FAQs replace in their entirety the previously issued January 19, 2021 FAQs.

NAHRO commends Treasury for the new FAQs, as they provide much-needed clear and reasonable guidance on the ERAP. NAHRO has been in contact with Treasury on numerous occasions to ensure that PHAs and their residents are served by the ERAP. On January 25, 2021, NAHRO sent a letter to the Treasury and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development outlining our concerns with the January 19, 2021 FAQs, and the new FAQs address many of NAHRO’s concerns. These new FAQs are a major step forward for PHAs in meeting their COVID-19 housing needs of HUD-assisted residents.  

Below are a number of the key guidance points provided by the February 22, 2021 FAQs:

  • Federally assisted tenants (Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher, & Project-Based Rental Assistance) are eligible for ERAP assistance for the tenant-owed portion of rent and utilities that are not subsidized. 
  • Tenants may document their financial hardship due to COVID-19 (unemployment benefits, reduction of income, significant costs, or other COVID-19 financial hardship) by written attestation signed by the tenant that one or more household members meet this eligibility criteria. 
  • Tenant household income is defined by using either HUD’s “annual income” definition in 24 CFR 5.609 or adjusted gross income reported on an Internal Revenue Service Form 1040 series. 
  • “Other expenses related to housing” examples are provided. The examples include but are not limited to: 
    • relocation expenses and rental fees (if a household has been temporarily or permanently displaced due to the COVID-19 outbreak);  
    • reasonable accrued late fees (if not included in rental or utility arrears and if incurred due to COVID-19); and  
    • Internet service provided to the rental unit. 
  • Outreach to landlords and utility providers must be done before providing the funds directly to the tenant. Outreach can be done using the following methods: 
    • a request for participation is sent in writing, by mail, to the landlord or utility provider, and the addressee does not respond to the request within 14 calendar days after mailing;  
    • the grantee has made at least three attempts by phone, text, or e-mail over a 10 calendar-day period to request the landlord or utility provider’s participation; or 
    • a landlord confirms in writing that the landlord does not wish to participate. 
  • PHAs, non-profit organizations, and local governments may operate ERAP programs through contractor, subrecipient, or intergovernmental cooperation agreements with the primary grantee at the state or local jurisdiction level. These agreements must meet monitoring and management requirements of 2 CFR 200.331-200.333 and procurement standards of 2 CFR 200.317-200.327. 

These are just a few of the answers in the new FAQs. The full FAQs are available on the NAHRO website’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program page. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, including these FAQs, will be a focus of the 2021 NAHRO Online Washington Conference’s Treasury Affordable Housing Program and Washington Report sessions on March 2, 2021. Click here to register for the 2021 NAHRO Online Washington Conference