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.

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.

Eviction Moratorium Upheld by US Supreme Court

On June 29, 2021, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, allowed a stay of a US District Court order vacating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Eviction Moratorium to stay in place. This means that the recently extended CDC Eviction Moratorium will remain in effect until July 31, 2021.

Justice Kavanaugh in a short opinion stated that, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its existing statutory authority by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium.” Justice Kavanaugh further went on to say that because July 31, 2021 is only a “few weeks” away and those weeks will allow for additional time to distribute the Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds appropriated by Congress; therefore, Justice Kavanaugh voted to deny the removal of the stay.

NAHRO encourages PHAs, property owners, and landlords to use the resources available in HUD’s updated Eviction Prevention and Stability Toolkit to work with the residents to minimize evictions.

CDC Extends Eviction Moratorium, White House Promotes Housing Stability

On June 24, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, signed an extension of the CDC order halting residential evictions due to non-payment of rent. The CDC eviction moratorium is now in effect until July 31, 2021, a one-month extension.

Existing and new tenant declarations are in effect until July 31, 2021. A CDC statement further provided that the CDC intends this to be the final extension. In preparation of the end of the CDC eviction moratorium on July 31 ,2021; PHAs, property owners, and landlord are encouraged to use the resources available in HUD’s updated Eviction Prevention and Stability Toolkit to work with the residents to minimize evictions.

Additionally, the White House released Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Initiatives to Promote Housing Stability By Supporting Vulnerable Tenants and Preventing Foreclosure. The fact sheet highlights a number of actions that the Administration is taking to help state and local governments prevent evictions with a focus of local court eviction diversion programs and speeding the process of distributing emergency rental assistance funds.

HUD Updates Eviction Prevention and Stability Toolkit

HUD has updated its eviction prevention and stability toolkit. The toolkit provides ten items that can help PHAs and Housing Choice Voucher landlords stabilize families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The toolkit provides the following documents:

The updated eviction prevention and stability toolkit can be found here.

Federal Judge Vacates CDC Eviction Moratorium

A federal judge has set aside and vacated the eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On May 5, Judge Dabney Friedrich of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued an opinion that was narrowly focused on one question, “Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium?” Judge Friedrich answered the question, “It does not” and further explains that the CDC and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exceeded the authority granted to them by the Public Health Service Act by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium.

Judge Friedrich’s opinion can be found here. PHAs must continue to follow all local (state, county, city) eviction moratoriums and local landlord tenant laws. NAHRO will continue to follow this case and share additional information as it becomes available.

UPDATE (5/5/2021, 2:26pm ET) – The US Justice Department is appealing to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit the US District Court’s order vacating the CDC eviction moratorium.

UPDATE (5/5/2021, 3:31pm ET) – The US Justice Department has issued a statement respectfully disagreeing with the District Court’s decision and confirming that they have filed a notice of appeal of the decision. The statement is available here.

UPDATE (5/6/2021, 8:48am ET) – Judge Friedrich has issued an administrative stay putting her order vacating the CDC eviction moratorium on hold. The court will allow both parties to submit briefs against and in support of the stay and will then make a further decision on to keep the stay in place or not. As of this update, the CDC eviction moratorium remains in effect.

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

NAHRO & NLC Webinar on Eviction Prevention and Emergency Rental Assistance Program – Feb 18 @ 12:30pm ET

NAHRO and the National League of Cities are teaming up to bring their members critical information on eviction prevention strategies and the Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). The complimentary webinar will take place on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 12:30 pm ET. Registration information can be found here.

The webinar will also discuss the upcoming reconciliation process the new COVID-19 relief package will take through Congress, as well as an overview of eviction prevention strategies cities and community partners are implementing in the midst of COVID-19, and highlights of resources to prevent housing instability.

Information on ERAP is changing rapidly, and it is important for PHAs that want to partner with their State and/or local jurisdiction to be up to date. Join the NAHRO and NLC teams to hear the latest information on ERAP, including information on family eligibility and eligible use, along with an update on how the new administration plans on implementing the program. We will also be joined by a PHA that will share how their housing authority has partnered with the local jurisdiction to provide local emergency rental assistance.

The NARHO and NLC teams look forward to sharing this important information! Register Now for the important webinar.