US Supreme Court Overturns CDC Eviction Moratorium

On Thursday, August 26, the United States Supreme Court vacated the stay that has allowed the current CDC eviction moratorium to continue. The order vacating the stay and dissent arguing to keep the stay can be found here. It confirms lower court decisions that the CDC did not have statutory authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium and states, “If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it. The application to vacate stay presented to THE CHIEF JUSTICE and by him referred to the Court is granted.”

The Court order placed considerable responsibility on Congress to act on a federal eviction moratorium, “It is up to Congress, not the CDC, to decide whether the public interest merits further action here. And Congress was on notice that a further extension would almost surely require new legislation, yet it failed to act in the several weeks leading up to the moratorium’s expiration.”

NAHRO continues to meet and work with HUD to develop solutions that will provide housing authorities the flexibility to minimize local evictions and will provide additional information when it becomes available. NAHRO encourages housing authorities, landlords, and tenants to work together to avoid COVID related evictions and to review HUD’s Eviction Prevention and Stability Toolkit for information and best practices. A White House Fact Sheet has also been released that provides additional actions that are being taken to prevent eviction and increase access to emergency rental assistance funds.

CDC Extends Modified Eviction Moratorium

On August 3, 2021, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), signed an order halting evictions between August 3, 2021 and October 3, 2021 in areas rapidly increasing COVID cases. The order is very similar to the previous CDC eviction moratorium that was in place from September 4, 2020 through July 31, 2021 as definitions of “covered persons” and “eviction” remain the same. Additionally tenants that have already signed a Declaration Form do not need to sign a new one and new declaration must be accepted in applicable areas.

The major change is where the August 3rd eviction moratorium applies, “This Order applies in U.S. counties experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission levels of SARS-CoV-2 [COVID] as defined by the CDC, as of August 3, 2021.” During comments at the White House today, President Biden said that the new CDC eviction moratorium would cover about 90% of renters. On CDC COVID Data Tracker, the community transmission rate for individual counties can be found. The new eviction order allows for the applicable counties to change. The order will apply to counties that enter substantial or high community transmission levels after August 3, 2021, on the date the county enters substantial or high level. Counties that are no longer experiencing high or substantial levels of community transmission for 14 consecutive days will no longer have the order apply to them unless they again experience substantial or high levels of community transmissions while the order is in effect.

NAHRO supports the CDC putting in place a modified eviction moratorium until October 3 which will allow for continued and additional emergency rental assistance program (ERAP) funds to reach eligible tenants and landlords. NAHRO encourages the Administration, Congress, ERAP grantees, landlords, and tenants to work together to simplify and streamline the distribution of ERAP funds to eligible tenants and landlords so the eviction moratorium is not needed after October 3, 2021. NAHRO also encourages the Treasury Department and ERAP grantees to engage HUD and the thousands of local Public Housing Authorities to maximize the outreach and communication to eligible landlords and tenants.

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
Continue reading

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.

Senate Banking Hearing on the Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing

Today, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee held a virtual hearing titled “Separate and Unequal: The Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing.” In their opening statements, Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA) both acknowledged the broad history of housing discrimination in the United States.

Chairman Brown explained the purpose of the hearing, stating, “On this Committee, we have an opportunity to address the legacy of housing discrimination. And we have an obligation, under the law that this body passed 53 years ago” (the Fair Housing Act of 1968).

Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law and Senior Fellow Emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, was the first witness to testify. He outlined the history of government-sponsored discrimination in housing and homeownership. For example, he mentioned the role of redlining, racially restrictive covenants, and segregation in federal public housing.

Ms. Lisa Rice, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Fair Housing, and Dr. Jason Reece, Assistance Professor of City and Regional Planning at The Ohio State University explained how America’s legacy of housing discrimination continues through current practices. Ms. Rice cited 2019 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HDMA) data showing that 19.01% of Black applicants were denied mortgage loans compared to only 10.15% of White applicants. Dr. Reece pointed out that the legacy of housing discrimination has produced neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and a lack of recourses, which are largely populated by people of color.

Two witnesses from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) also joined the hearing. Mr. Howard Husock, AEI Adjunct Fellow and Contributing Editor for the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, proposed changes to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. Mr. Tobias Peter, Research Fellow and Director of Research at the AEI Housing Center, pointed to racial discrimination in residential zoning policies and foreclosure-prone affordable housing polices as two major causes of racial disparities in housing.

Following the testimonies, several Senators discussed these housing issues with the witnesses. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) asked whether additions to credit reporting, including reports on utility payments, would help to qualify more Black households for homeownership. Ms. Rice said she believes that those changes would help and that the GSEs (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, etc.) could help to collect that information.

Senator Van Hollen (D-MD) asked Mr. Rothstein about the “race neutral” policies he mentions in his book. Mr. Rothstein described how policies that are superficially race neutral can still have a disparate impact due to the history of racial discrimination. An example of that phenomenon is exclusionary zoning laws that, at least on the surface, do not explicitly mention race.

Senator Warnock (D-GA) asked how to address ongoing discrimination in the appraisal market. Ms. Rice responded that Congress and the administration should enforce the Fair Housing Act, fund fair housing organizations, and re-staff the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Several other Senators from both parties attended the hearing to question the witnesses. All witness testimonies and a recording of the hearing are available at www.banking.senate.gov/hearings

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.