The Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Agriculture on February 16 announced a coordinated extension and expansion of forbearance and foreclosure relief programs.
Consumer Finance Protection Bureau
Homeowners and renters can visit the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s website for up-to-date information on their relief options, protections, and key deadlines.
Department of Agriculture
The USDA on February 16 announced an extension of eviction and foreclosure moratoriums on USDA Single Family Housing Direct and Guaranteed loans through June 30, 2021.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
HUD on February 16 announced extensions of the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) foreclosure and eviction moratoriums, as well as an extension of the initial start date of a COVID-19 forbearance. The Office of Public and Indian Housing is planning to announce similar relief for homeowners assisted under the Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program and the Section 184A Native Hawaiian Housing Loan Guarantee Program.
The Office of Housing Counseling is hosting a webinar on February 23 at 2 pm EST to help owners and managers of HUD-assisted or insured multifamily properties who are looking for resources to assist their tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar will provide an overview of housing counseling services and cover how to find and connect with local housing counseling agencies.
CityLab reports that Republican state lawmakers are slowing emergency rental assistance funds from Congress, forcing some cities and counties to pursue workarounds by seeking aid directly from the federal government. Federal rent relief has met resistance from Republican-led legislatures in Idaho and Michigan. These threats to stall or block rent relief distribution have real-world consequences for tenants, as states have a limited amount of time to spend the money from the Treasury Department before losing the aid.
NPR shares the story of a Florida family whose landlord moved forward with the eviction process, even though the family submitted the required CDC paperwork to their landlord. In some cases, landlords are pretending they have not received the CDC declaration and are moving forward with the eviction process, says Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project.
USA Today reports the pandemic is forcing more Americans to live in cars and RVs, and like every measure of homelessness and poverty, people of color are disproportionately represented among vehicle dwellers. This “hidden homeless crisis” is expected to worsen as the government safety net frays.
A recent report from Apartment List, an online rental housing platform, found that rent debt is concentrated among minority tenants. The report found that 53% of Black renters have unpaid housing bills, compared with 38% of Hispanic renters, 27% of Asian renters, and 21% of white renters.
The Appeal discusses the growing momentum in cities, states, and in Congress to ensure every tenant facing eviction has a guaranteed right to counsel. John Pollock of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel highlights that access to legal representation can make the difference between stability and catastrophe for families.
NPR’s Ari Shapiro spoke with Lee Camp, a St. Louis attorney who represents tenants, about how the COVID-19 recession has affected housing insecurity. “On the back end of this pandemic, we will see families saddled with debt like we have never seen. We will still likely be dealing with mass evictions, which will turn into homelessness into the streets,” said Camp.
The New York Times reports that some officials fear frigid weather is a greater risk for people experiencing homelessness than the coronavirus. Cities and communities are struggling with how to shelter people who are homeless without exposing them to COVID-19.
NBC News reports that mobile home residents are one of the hardest-hit groups facing eviction amid the pandemic. When mobile home residents find themselves facing eviction, they risk not only losing the lot they are renting but also their home equity.
State and Local News
Governor Kay Ivey authorized the Alabama Housing Finance Authority (AHFA) to implement the state’s new $263 million COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program. AHFA expects to accept applications from landlords and tenants beginning March 1.
The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation will be distributing nearly $200 million in federal rent and utility assistance. Alaska Housing Rent Relief will help Alaskan renters and landlords cover up to 12 months of rent and utilities. The window to submit applications is from February 16 to March 5.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to rescind the county’s eviction moratorium that two state lawmakers said was illegal. Pima County Board Supervisor Matt Heinz responded that it is completely inappropriate to rescind the moratorium during the pandemic because it will endanger dozens of people.
San Jose lawmakers at the city and council level approved a “hybrid” plan to distribute millions of rent relief funds with local and state distribution strategies. Advocates, including Destination: Home, say the implementation model prioritizes equity and will ensure these critical resources reach the households most in need. Approximately 43,000 Santa Clara County families are at risk of eviction, and more than 65% of clients in the county’s existing emergency relief programs are extremely low-income.
Fresno unveiled on February 17 a refurbished motel of about 80 rooms, the latest in the city’s efforts to house individuals who are homeless in former rundown motels. The newest motel is the fourth to be acquired and converted into emergency housing. The city of Fresno contributed $6.8 million and the Fresno Housing Authority provided $24 million to buy the four motels and operate them for the next five years.
The Sacramento City Council on February 16 approved a $31.7 million rental assistance program. More than half of the money came from the state of California, and $15 million came directly to Sacramento from the U.S. Department of Treasury. Applications are scheduled to open on February 25.
A “no-freeze” shelter in Danielson has been able to accommodate the number of clients who seek shelter, but the prospect of the federal eviction moratorium ending has shelter providers concerned about a potential surge of newly-homeless residents.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that six hours after DeKalb County opened applications for its new $21 million emergency rental assistance program on February 12, more than 2,000 individuals had already applied. The county also received 17,000 website visits, 3,7000 emails, and 350 calls related to the program. A group of court officials, Atlanta Legal Aid, the DeKalb County Marshal’s Office, Goodwill of North Georgia, and mediators from the Dispute Resolution Center are part of a coalition helping administer the relief program.
The Augusta Chronicle reports that thousands of Augusta families have fallen through the cracks of the federal eviction moratorium. The Richmond County Marshal’s Office served 2,357 households with eviction papers during 2020 in every month except April. Augusta-Richmond County Commissioners recently approved over $6 million in federal rental and utility assistance.
The lack of affordable housing in the Treasure Valley is making it harder for people seeking permanent housing amid the ongoing pandemic and economic fallout. About 34,000 Idahoans are at risk for eviction or homelessness.
An op-ed in the Chicago Tribune discusses why the Just Cause for Eviction ordinance should be part of Chicago’s housing policy solution to prevent the looming eviction crisis. The ordinance, backed by the Chicago Housing Justice League and supported by more than 64 community organizations, would end no-fault evictions and require landlords to pay relocation assistance to renters who are evicted for non-tenant-related reasons.
Clinton County supervisors unanimously approved authorizing their emergency management coordinator to request approval for FEMA’s non-congregate sheltering program. Other counties in the region have successfully received approval for reimbursement from FEMA for non-congregate sheltering costs.
Burlington’s Transitions has housed about a dozen people since opening its doors as a warming center on February 4. The shelter is not yet able to house residents for extended periods, but it will eventually house up to 13 people. Transitions has been using ESG-CV funds to house would-be residents in hotel rooms and apartments.
An annual street count in Cedar Rapids on January 27 found a record number of people sleeping outside. The destructive derecho, pandemic, and the lack of affordable housing likely have contributed to this increase.
The Kansas Housing Resources Corporation and the City of Wichita announced the state’s $200 million rental and utility assistance program. Wichita residents can apply for assistance through the Wichita Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Kansans living outside the Wichita city limits can apply through the Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance program.
Over 900 evictions have been filed in Louisville so far this year. Landlords are finding loopholes to evade the CDC eviction moratorium, and many tenants are unaware of local resources and struggling with virtual court hearings. Governor Andy Beshear announced the relaunch of the Health at Home Eviction Relief Fund, which will provide an additional $297 million in housing assistance.
Despite current federal and state eviction protections, families across Boston and Massachusetts are being forced from their homes as a result of no-fault evictions. City Life/Vida Urbana held a rally outside of a property to protest the “no-fault” evictions of two residents.
The 22 News I-Team found that Springfield is one of the hardest-hit cities in Massachusetts in terms of eviction filings. According to data from the Massachusetts Trial Court, 60% of Hampden County evictions that have occurred since the statewide moratorium was lifted in October were in Springfield.
Mecosta County nonprofits have been stepping up to provide services for individuals who are homeless amid the ongoing pandemic and winter weather. The Mecosta/Osceola Mid-Michigan Community Action helps individuals and families who are homeless find stable housing and provide case management services for individuals experiencing homelessness, those that owe back rent, and people at risk for eviction.
The Missouri Housing Development Commission announced that applications for the Missouri State Assistance for Housing Relief Program are now open. Governor Parson on February 11 signed HB 16 into law, providing more than $324 million in federal funding for rental and utility assistance.
The city of New Brunswick paused its Cold Blue program in which it opens Unity Square as a warming center when overnight temperatures drop below 25 degrees. The director of Human and Community Services said the “timing was unfortunate,” given the frigid temperatures impacting the area. Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, tweeted, “This is illegal, immoral & possibly deadly.”
Hundreds of tenants in western Pennsylvania have been evicted in the last several months, despite the federal eviction moratorium, and thousands more are facing eviction. In Allegheny County, 1,138 eviction cases have been filed since November 1. Judges ruled in favor of evicting tenants in 213 of those cases, and tenants were forced out of their homes in 135 cases.
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse announced on February 16 that he would extend the city’s ban on evictions for another 30 days into mid-March. The original order was adopted after city officials found that hundreds of people would face eviction at the start of 2021. The city is also distributing $500,000 in Emergency Solutions Grants – CARES (ESG-CV) funds to tenants. Local landlords have reported that Harrisburg’s rental relief has been very helpful for themselves and their tenants.
Amid the ongoing pandemic, the federal eviction moratorium’s shortcomings are coming into focus. The CDC moratorium does not protect holdover tenants who overstay their leases, leaving some North Texas families with nowhere to go when their leases end. Advocates, including Sandy Rollins of the Texas Tenants’ Union, are calling for local, state, and federal lawmakers to enact broader eviction moratoriums.
The Houston City Council voted on February 17 to approve a grace period ordinance that would extend the amount of time renters have to resolve payment issues before a landlord can pursue an eviction to March 31. Without the grace period ordinance, Texas tenants have only three days to resolve a missed payment before landlords can file an eviction. Jen Rice, a reporter at Houston Public Media, tweeted about the shortcomings of the ordinance.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports the Utah Apartment Association opposes translating key pieces of eviction law information into Spanish, Vietnamese, and Arabic to help communities of color disproportionately impacted by evictions. This article is part of a series on Utah evictions and the state’s leading landlord law firm.
The Virginian-Pilot reports the number of Virginia Beach residents who reported being at risk of homelessness during the 2020 pandemic more than quadrupled compared to the prior year. Black residents and families with children made up the majority of people who reached out to the city for housing assistance. Virginia Beach has housed 330 people in hotels since the beginning of the pandemic, and 60% of those people have found temporary or permanent housing. At the end of January, 123 households were residing in three hotels in the city.
The Spokesman-Review estimates thousands of renters in Spokane County could face eviction when Washington’s moratorium is lifted on March 31. In December and January, landlords in Spokane County filed eviction notices on 550 households. The Spokane County Bar Association estimates the county could see more than 2,000 eviction filings a month when the moratorium ends.
Despite the opportunity to receive 100% reimbursement from FEMA for non-congregate sheltering costs, D.C. officials say there are no plans to expand the Pandemic Emergency Program for Medically Vulnerable Individuals (PEP-V). The director of the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) cites other non-federally reimbursable costs associated with operating the PEP-V sites and an overall lack of capacity as reasons for not expanding the program. There are 555 people waiting to be placed into PEP-V as of February 5.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
COVID-19 Homeless System Response: Eligible ESG Program Costs for Infection Disease Preparedness – Updated February 17, 2021