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.
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
Secretary Fudge issued new guidance yesterday clarifying that citizens returning from jail and/or prison and at risk of homelessness are eligible for Emergency Housing Vouchers.
In a letter sent out to PHAs, Continuums of Care, and HUD grantees, Sec. Fudge wrote that “HUD strongly encourages PHAs to work with their Continuum of Care (CoC) partners to ensure that individuals who are at-risk of homelessness after leaving prisons or jails are considered for these vouchers.”
HUD has eliminated permissive prohibitions for drug-related criminal activity for EHVs, since drug addiction can be a root cause of homelessness. Following a Housing First approach, it now recommends considering drug-related prohibitions to be separate from prohibitions on criminal activity against a person. HUD also no longer requires a “one strike” rule for residents for criminal activity, and instead defers to discretion of landlords and PHAs. More detail on criminal records and eligibility for EHVs can be found here.
Beyond EHVs, more guidance on criminal records in accordance with the Fair Housing Act can be found here. PHAs and federally-assisted housing cannot use arrest records as the basis to deny admission, terminate assistance, or evict residents.
HUD plans to issue future guidance and tools for PHAs and private landlords on tenant screening and best practices on reentry housing. Later this month it will also issue guidance on using Community Development Block Grants on community violence intervention (CVI).
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.
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
On August 8, President Trump signed an executive order titled “Executive Order on Fighting the Spread of COIVD-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners.” This Executive Order (EO) was signed after the negotiations on a fourth COVID-19 legislative relief package broke down.
The EO states, “[i]t is the policy of the United States to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, residential evictions and foreclosures during the ongoing COVID-19 national emergency.” Specifically it directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) “to promote the ability of renters and homeowners to avoid eviction or foreclosure” through actions that “may include encouraging and providing assistance to public housing authorities, affordable housing owners, landlords, and recipients of Federal grant funds in minimizing evictions and foreclosures.” The agencies of HUD and Treasury are also directed to “identify any and all available Federal funds to provide temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners.” Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “shall consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions . . . are reasonably necessary to prevent further spread of COVID-19.”
This Executive Order, in and of itself, does not specifically extend nor create an eviction moratorium nor does it create a new rental or homeowner assistance program. This Executive Order instructs the executive branch of government – specifically Health and Human Services; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Treasury; Housing and Urban Development; and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) – to assess their current resources and tools related to renters and homeowners affected by COVID-19.
NAHRO continues to encourage Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), Section 8 landlords, and tenants to work together to minimize the financial impact of COVID-19. Tenants should contact their PHA notifying them of any reduction of income due to the pandemic. Landlords and PHAs should reach out and coordinate with tenants concerning unpaid rent. Best practices in preventing evictions include repayment agreements, retroactive recertifications and proactive communication with tenants.
Below are links to HUD and NAHRO eviction prevention resources:
Our advocacy must continue to ensure adequate resources that support your programs and provides rent relief for unassisted families. Use the NAHRO Advocacy Action Alert Center to send letters to your members of Congress and the Administration and let them know the critical role quality house and rental assistance plays as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
On July 29, 2020, Judge George B. Daniels of the U.S District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction and temporary stay of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Public Charge rule. Judge Daniels’ order provides that DHS and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) can not enforce, apply, implement, or treat as effective the Public Charge rule as long as “there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The preliminary injunction and temporary stay applies nationwide as Judge Daniels wrote, “Each infected individual that travels to Governmental Plaintiffs’ jurisdiction [States of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont; and City of New York] risks undoing crucial progress made in combating this disease. Discouraging noncitizens nationwide from obtaining necessary treatment and care certainly undermines those efforts. Issuing geographically limited relief would not meaningfully abate the public health risk, especially when applied to a population that represents a significant portion of essential workers who continue to work outside of their homes ans interact with the public at large.”
The Public Charge rule, that defined public charge to include individuals receiving federal housing benefits, took effect February 24, 2020; after previous injunctions and stays were lifted by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is anticipated that Judge Daniels’ preliminary injunction and temporary stay order will also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The July 29, 2020 order can be view here. NAHRO’s Public Charge One-Pager provides additional information on the DHS Public Charge rule. NAHRO will continue to follow the implementation of DHS’s Public Charge rule and share additional information as we receive it.
This Wednesday at 2pm eastern time, NAHRO is hosting a complimentary webinar awarding NAHRO’s Co-Legislator of the Year and kicking off NAHRO’s August Advocacy Campaign.
NAHRO has an ambitious goal this August – send 8,501 letters to Capitol Hill during the upcoming Congressional August recess. NAHRO Legislator of the Year Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) will join NAHRO to receive his award and help us kick off our August advocacy campaign.
NAHRO Director of Congressional Relations Tess Hembree will also lead a conversation with members of the Legislative Network on their advocacy successes and how they plan to advocate for housing and community development this summer.
Don’t miss this critical conversation on how you can have your voice heard by lawmakers this summer.
Click here to register!
Late last week, HUD published on its website a final rule titled “Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice.” This rule implements the Fair Housing Act’s duty to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH). Although the rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register, it will go into effect 30 days after its official publication.