Department of Housing and Urban Development
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced on January 18 the awarding of more than $83 million in Indian Community Development Block Grant-American Rescue Plan (ICDBG-ARP) grants to 74 tribal communities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the pandemic. This is the third round of ICDBG-ARP awards. See a breakdown of the awards by recipients here.
HUD invites you to register for the 2022 CARES Act Virtual Conference taking place January 24-28, 2022. The conference is intended for all grantees that have applied for and received their allocation of HUD CARES Act funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first two days of the conference include sessions on Community Development Block Grant-Coronavirus (CDBG-CV), Emergency Solutions Grants-Coronavirus (ESG-CV), and Housing Opportunities for Persons With HIV/AIDS-Coronavirus (HOPWA-CV) programs, and the last three days feature two concurrent Basically CDBG courses. There is no cost to attend the conference. Register here.
Department of the Treasury
The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) published an overview of promising practices for using commitment letters to assist prospective renters. The overview highlights practices that help those without a current lease prove to a prospective landlord that they can pay a security deposit and access future rent assistance.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that the National Board for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) allocated $530 million to jurisdictions across the country. Congress appropriated $130 million through the “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021” and $400 million through the “American Rescue Plan Act” to the EFSP. These funds are for people with non-disaster related emergencies and can be used for a broad range of services, including mass shelter, mass feeding, food pantries and food banks, utility bill payments to prevent cut-offs, rent/mortgage payments to prevent evictions/foreclosures, and transition assistance for people moving from shelters to stable living conditions. The $400 million in supplemental funding was provided by Congress specifically to address the continuing economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) published new guidance on January 19 to help communities minimize the spread and impact of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness, who face an increased risk of infection and severe disease compared to the general population. The new guidance, “The Omicron Variant of COVID-19: What Homeless Service Providers Need to Know,” was developed by USICH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Veterans Affairs (VA).
Advocacy & Research
The National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) new eviction diversion initiative will provide funding to state courts to hire staff members to sustain eviction prevention and diversion efforts. NCSC’s Eviction Diversion Initiative (EDI) grant program offers an opportunity for courts to learn from and improve upon COVID-19-era best practices and to create permanent changes to their high-volume, high-impact eviction dockets. The deadline for state and local courts to apply was Friday, January 21.
The National Consumer Law Center released an article addressing tactics to deal with rental debt.
Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Anna Blackburne-Rigsby and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas Nathan Hecht penned an op-ed in the New York Times urging state governments and state courts to preserve pandemic-era eviction diversion programs, practices, and partnerships.
State and Local News
California’s $5.2 billion emergency rental assistance (ERA) fund is dwindling, as the demand for aid keeps growing and statewide tenant protections expire in March. California requested an additional $1.9 billion in reallocated ERA funds from the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) but received just $62 million. California officials estimate the state needs an additional $2.5 billion in federal rent relief funds to meet the demand for aid.
According to CBS Miami, thousands of South Florida renters are being evicted, as homeowners seek to sell their homes while the market is hot. Some landlords are evicting tenants despite receiving federal emergency rental assistance (ERA) funds from ERA-assistance program Our Florida. After selling his property, one landlord kept the ERA funds he received from Our Florida without transferring the money to the new landlord, leaving the tenant at risk of eviction.
Kentucky State Representative Nima Kulkarni introduced three bills that would bolster tenant protections, including one bill that would automatically expunge eviction judgments from tenants’ records after one year and seal eviction filings if they are dismissed.
According to PBS NewsHour, housing advocates fear that the impacts of COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida recovery efforts are masking the true number of New Orleans renters at risk of eviction. While New Orleans’s emergency rental assistance program is funded for another six months and the city has launched additional efforts to keep renters housed, advocates are concerned about a looming eviction crisis.
In an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, Detrese Dowridge, the president of the Right to Housing Alliance and a member of the Baltimore Renters United Steering Committee, urges Baltimore City officials to provide the full 18 months of federal emergency rental assistance (ERA) funds directly to tenants, as permitted by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Hundreds of evictions are scheduled in Baltimore City, and over 23,200 Baltimore families – primarily people of color – are behind on rent.
The Worcester City Council discussed enacting a local eviction moratorium at its January 18 meeting. Housing advocates urged city officials to enact eviction protections, while landlords fought against the proposal. After the city solicitor questioned the city’s legal authority to enact a moratorium, Councilor-at-Large Morris Bergman decided to hold the item another week.
The Twin Cities Pioneer Press reports Minnesota has paid out $333 million in federal emergency rental assistance (ERA) since the program launched last spring. ERA payments declined in November and December 2021, but state officials expect applications to increase in January, largely due to the end of the federal child tax credit, increases in utility rates, and the Omicron surge.
Governor Kathy Hochul urged the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to replenish New York’s rent relief funds after more than 1,300 additional households applied to the state’s reactivated program. Governor Hochul joined the governors of New Jersey, California, and Illinois in sending a letter to Treasury asking the department to streamline the ERA reallocation process.
ABC7 NY reports tenants’ rights advocates joined city leaders on January 14 to urge Governor Hochul to extend the statewide eviction moratorium through June 2022. New York has spent about half its $2.4 billion in rental relief, and the state is set to receive $27 million more.
On January 13, New York City Mayor Eric Adams called for an immediate infusion of funds for New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Mayor Adams also announced new measures to strengthen tenant protections and inform tenants of their rights through targeted outreach efforts.
Oregon Housing and Community Services will begin accepting new applications for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program for a limited time starting on January 26. The state paused accepting new applications in December 2021 due to dwindling funds. The agency estimates it will have enough funding to pay for between 6,700 and 9,300 additional applications.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that as Omicron rages and rental assistance funding runs out, the city’s landlord-tenant court is packed for eviction hearings. Over 300 new eviction cases were filed in Philadelphia in the first full week of the year, the highest number since the pandemic began. Philadelphia’s rental assistance and eviction diversion programs helped delay the wave of new eviction filings, but the city’s funding is nearly gone.
South Dakota had to return about $22 million in unused emergency rental assistance (ERA) funds to the federal government. As of early January 2022, the state had distributed only about $24.9 million of its $271 million allocation, about 9.2% of the total available funding. In 26 of the 66 counties in South Dakota, mostly in rural areas, fewer than 10 housing authority assistance applications have been filed.
The combination of dwindling rent relief funds and the end of the winter holidays means more eviction cases are now coming to court. The Houston Chronicle reports that in the first week of 2022, the median rent owed by Houston and Harris County tenants was $2,455 – the greatest amount since at least 2017. Houston and Harris County will receive an additional $14.5 million in reallocated emergency rental assistance (ERA) funds.
Mayor Bruce Harrell announced on January 12 that he will issue an executive order to extend Seattle’s eviction moratorium for an additional 30 days until February 14. The moratorium, which was enacted and extended six times by former Mayor Jenny Durkan, would have expired on January 15. In addition to extending the eviction moratorium, Mayor Harrell’s executive order forms an interdepartmental team to help streamline the delivery of emergency rental assistance (ERA) funds, enhance ERA data collection, and better connect tenants and landlords to resources.
According to the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s federal emergency rental assistance program has distributed $15.6 million to renters, landlords, and utility companies. Advocates say Wyoming leaders often underestimate the scale of housing needs in the state, partially due to a lack of data on evictions. Wyoming does not keep detailed or consistent data on evictions, making it difficult to analyze housing instability and the impact of pandemic-related eviction moratoriums. Housing advocates say Wyoming would benefit from a system that provides more nuanced data on evictions. Such information would help inform housing policy and connect tenants facing eviction to resources, such as emergency rental assistance and legal aid.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- COVID-19 Homeless System Response: Coordinating ESG-CV and EHV to Create Surge Capacity in Coordinated Entry Systems – January 2021
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)