Congress will extend eviction moratorium, fund emergency rent assistance with new stimulus deal

Congress will extend eviction moratorium, fund emergency rent assistance with new stimulus deal

Lawmakers are set to help struggling renters as part of the second $900 billion stimulus package.

The bill is expected to extend the nationwide eviction moratorium by one month, through the end of January. The moratorium, which was first enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, was set to expire on Dec. 31.

Additionally, those involved in lobbying efforts on behalf of renters said the stimulus package is expected to provide $25 billion in emergency rental assistance and extend the deadline to use relief funds set aside in the CARES Act. That’s in addition to another round of stimulus checks (this time capped at $600) and a 10-week period of $300 in pandemic-related jobless benefits.

Relief was sorely needed across the country, said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a written statement Sunday. “Increased evictions will lead to increased spread of, and potentially deaths from, COVID-19,” she said.

“If Congress does not enact this bill immediately, tens of millions of people are at risk of losing their homes this winter with catastrophic consequences – for children, families, communities, and our country’s ability to contain the pandemic,” Yentel added.

“This is just slowing the clock on evictions, it’s not providing additional resources,” Marion McFadden, senior vice president for public policy at affordable housing non-profit Enterprise Community Partners, said of the CDC’s moratorium back when it was announced in September. 

As of the beginning of December, more than one in eight renters nationwide said they had no confidence in their ability to make the next month’s rent payment, according to survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Disproportionately, Black and Hispanic renters said they were struggling to pay the rent. Making matters worse, many of these renters have been unable to pay their full rent for many months now.

Meanwhile, small mom-and-pop landlords have struggled to make ends meet after going months without rental payments. “Many rental home owners who haven’t received enough rent to meet home-related expenses in months have been using savings, personal funds, and other means to hold onto their properties,” David Howard, executive director of the National Rental Home Council, a trade group representing landlords in the single-family rental industry, told MarketWatch.

Without assistance, many of these landlords could eventually face foreclosure, he added.

The $25 billion in emergency rental assistance is a bandaid on a wider problem, said David Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference. Dworkin noted that the bill is “a practical start for staving off the immediate threat of mass evictions across the country.”

“More will be needed to prevent housing insecurity for millions of low- and moderate-income households who are managing the economic fallout of the pandemic,” he said.

For months now, housing advocates and industry officials had called for lawmakers to pass $100 billion in rental-related relief. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that renters will owe between $30 billion and $70 billion in back rent by the end of December.

Yet, researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia estimated in October that less was needed to right-side the rental housing industry. They projected households would owe only $7.2 billion in unpaid rent by the beginning December, noting that expanded unemployment benefits and stimulus payments helped reduce the rent burden for many families.

Additionally, the CDC’s eviction moratorium itself has been criticized for loopholes that have allowed thousands of households to still be evicted since it went into effect.

In particular, the moratorium relied on state and local authorities to implement it, but there’s evidence that local law enforcement officials have declined to do so.

The latest stimulus legislation may not solve all of those issues, but it will give lawmakers time to find additional ways of addressing renters’ needs, Yentel said.

“Extending the moratorium through January provides time for emergency rental assistance to be distributed, and for President-elect Biden to improve and further extend the moratorium immediately after being sworn into office,” she said.

“Congress should enact this compromise legislation immediately, then get back to work in January on comprehensive solutions.

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