Department of Housing and Urban Development
A HUD factsheet on eligible ESG program costs for infectious disease preparedness has been updated to include costs specific to supporting COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts for people experiencing homelessness.
The DHRC sent a letter on March 8 to Acting FEMA Director Robert Fenton to express concern over issues with FEMA reimbursed non-congregate sheltering that has prevented many individuals experiencing homelessness, individuals with disabilities, and residents of congregate care facilities from utilizing this solution.
A pre-print research study that reviewed public COVID-19 data from U.S. cities found that people experiencing homelessness had 30% higher case fatality rates than the general population, suggesting that they should be prioritized for vaccines. The increased risk was especially pronounced in younger age groups, suggesting that age-based vaccine eligibility criteria may be inappropriate for people experiencing homelessness.
The Eviction Lab conducted a preliminary analysis of the effectiveness of the CDC eviction moratorium. The data indicate that where someone lives plays a major role in determining how well the CDC moratorium protects them.
NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel spoke live on MSNBC with Stephanie Ruhle about the unprecedented $50 billion in housing and homelessness resources included in the American Rescue Plan Act, why it is urgently needed, and why President Biden must use executive authority to extend the federal eviction moratorium.
An op-ed in the New York Times examines how emergency interventions established during the pandemic have provided a glimpse into what is possible: “The public has a genuine but brief window over the next few months to make America a fairer, more just and more humane place.” NLIHC’s Diane Yentel discusses how this moment offers an “extraordinary opportunity” to work with President Biden and Congress to expand tenant protections, invest in public housing, and achieve universal housing vouchers. “Our job now is to build off this broad recognition that housing is health care,” said Diane Yentel.
The Intercept examines shortcomings of the federal government’s efforts to protect renters during the pandemic. “There’s been a patchwork of resources and protections at the federal, state, and local level that has kept most renters stably housed, but there’s been an alarming number of evictions that have proceeded despite the protections,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel.
The Wall Street Journal discusses the emergency rental assistance included in the American Rescue Plan Act, linking to NLIHC’s database of state and local emergency rental assistance programs.
CNBC reports on the provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act, including the additional funding for emergency rental assistance. The article points readers to NLIHC’s COVID-19 rental assistance program database.
The New York Times discusses the provisions in the latest COVID-19 relief package, including the approximately $27 billion for emergency rental and utility assistance. The article links to NLIHC’s fact sheet on the housing provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act.
NBC News reports that across the country, many cities have begun vaccinating individuals housed within their shelter systems, but few municipalities have gone into the streets where the issue is compounded by mistrust, logistical hurdles, and limited resources.
Pew Trusts reports that few states have prioritized people experiencing homelessness for COVID-19 vaccines. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, at least 20 states do not include people living in homeless shelters in their vaccine distribution plans. Few states even mention unsheltered individuals.
State and Local News
While Alabama renters began applying for the statewide emergency rental assistance program on March 1, residents of Huntsville and Madison County have been unable to apply for their local rental assistance programs. Emergency Rental Assistance Alabama says that if local rent relief programs are not operating yet, ERA Alabama might accept their application.
During the first round of CARES Act funding, Pima County and Tucson had two separate rental assistance programs with different eligibility requirements. The two entities are consolidating their efforts into one system, but they must vote on the contracts that will make the funds available. More than 4,000 applications for emergency rental assistance are pending, and while $31 million is currently available, it will not be dispersed until the city and county approve the new contracts.
About 700 individuals who have been sheltered for months at the San Diego Convention Center are scheduled to move into smaller shelters starting March 22. Preliminary planning is underway to convert the convention center into a mass vaccination site.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city is paying $16.1 million to shelter individuals in over 260 tents placed in empty lots around the city – a price tag that amounts to more than $61,000 per tent annually. While FEMA will provide 100% reimbursement to state and local governments for housing individuals in hotels and motels, tent sites are not eligible for FEMA reimbursement.
Tenants in Sacramento are calling attention to a loophole in the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act (SB91) that allows landlords to evict tenants for “just cause.” A citywide measure on November’s ballot that failed last year would have protected these tenants.
Eviction filings in Colorado have grown since January 1, an increase advocates and lawyers attribute to Governor Jared Polis’ decision not to renew the statewide eviction moratorium. The situation has been exacerbated by the slow distribution of aid from Colorado’s Emergency Housing Assistance Program. By the end of February, the program had received more than 13,000 applications.
Carabetta Management Company filed 10 eviction lawsuits between February 17 and February 28 against senior tenants and tenants with disabilities at a New Haven apartment complex. According to the New Haven Independent’s review of court records, New Haven landlords have filed 161 eviction lawsuits since last October.
A landmark bill that would make housing a human right for all Connecticut residents is making its way through the General Assembly. The “Act Establishing a Right to Housing” (SB 194) aims to address housing and homelessness issues exacerbated by COVID-19. The bill would reduce the impact of criminal and eviction history on housing access, increase access to legal counsel for evictions and foreclosures, and more.
An op-ed in the CT Mirror discusses why right to counsel is just as much a racial justice issue as a housing policy issue. Despite state and federal eviction moratoriums, nearly 3,000 Connecticut families have faced eviction in the past 10 months, and over half of these families were Black or Latino, even though these groups combined comprise less than a quarter of the overall population.
The Sun Sentinel reports that while thousands of South Florida tenants fall further into debt, millions of dollars in federal rental assistance remain in county bank accounts as officials develop plans to distribute the aid. Broward County, which received its $59 million allocation in late January, is far behind Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in determining how to disburse the federal rent relief funds.
As evictions in Florida reach pre-pandemic levels, lawyers and experts caution that the state is heading toward a major eviction crisis. Many Floridians have fallen through the cracks of the federal eviction moratorium. In Hillsborough County, nearly 1,700 evictions were filed between December 28 and February 21.
Jesse Tree, a local nonprofit, is partnering with the University of Idaho College of Law to provide legal aid and rental assistance for renters facing eviction. Despite the federal eviction moratorium, over 300 evictions were filed in Ada and Canyon County courts from September to December 2020. In 2021, there have been over 200 eviction hearings in the Treasure Valley.
Governor J.B. Pritzker’s latest executive order extending the eviction moratorium adds a new legal protection for tenants. Executive Order 2021-05 prevents landlords from pursuing legal action in court against a tenant as long as the tenants give notice of their inability to pay and the tenant is not a “direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants or an immediate and severe risk to property.”
The pandemic has exacerbated housing insecurity and homelessness in Indianapolis. Indianapolis ranks sixth in the country for eviction filings during the pandemic, and the pandemic has made it more difficult for homeless shelters to provide services.
Indiana’s Rental Assistance Portal is now accepting applications for the Indiana Emergency Rental Assistance (IERA) program. A link to apply along with a series of informational resources in English and Spanish can be found on the top banner of www.indianahousingnow.org. Renters living in Elkhart, Hamilton, Lake, Marion, and St. Joseph counties, along with the city of Fort Wayne, cannot apply to the IERA because these municipalities have their own programs. None of the local programs are accepting applications yet, but they plan to do so later this month.
The Wichita Workforce Center and the city of Wichita have partnered to offer in-person appointments to assist people applying for the Wichita Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Residents can schedule an appointment online or by calling 316-771-6800.
Kentucky’s $297 million Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Program reopened on February 15. As of March 1, the program has received 8,000 applicants requesting $12.6 million.
Governor John Bel Edwards announced on March 5 the launch of Louisiana’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The Louisiana Housing Corporation, in partnership with the Louisiana Office of Community Development, will administer the $308 million program.
East Baton Rouge has launched a new website to assess the needs of struggling tenants as it prepares to receive additional federal rental assistance funds. Through its new website, the city-parish says it will “rapidly and efficiently” prioritize how it will distribute rental assistance.
COVID-19 is exacerbating the many challenges faced by Mainers experiencing homelessness. NLIHC estimates Maine has a shortage of more than 21,000 affordable, available rental units for extremely low-income renters. “There’s clearly a significant shortage in Maine. It’s a bit less severe than in other areas of the country, but there’s still a significant shortage,” said NLIHC Vice President of Research Andrew Aurand.
People who are homeless are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan starting Monday, March 8. “Our vulnerable populations are high priority for us right now,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail, according to the Lansing State Journal. “This opens the door to make sure that population is also vaccinated and we don’t continue to have outbreaks in shelters.”
Minnesota state officials are working to prevent an avalanche of evictions when Governor Tim Walz’s emergency order is lifted, ending the statewide eviction moratorium. A Senate housing committee passed an “off-ramp” bill that would provide a 60-day phase-out period during which landlords would have to provide notices to tenants before filing evictions.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer on March 1 extended the city’s eviction moratorium through April 5. The city has not yet distributed the $9 million in rental assistance funds it received from the U.S. Department of Treasury.
This week, Douglas County courts are scheduled to hear nearly 70 eviction cases, nearing pre-pandemic numbers. Douglas County has made $2 million in leftover CARES Act funds available for rental assistance.
The Omaha City Council voted unanimously to approve $22.2 million of federal rental assistance. According to Legal Aid of Nebraska, eviction filings started to rise at the end of last year as landlords found ways to circumvent the federal eviction moratorium.
Nevada state legislators are considering a bill (AB 141) that would automatically seal records for pandemic-related evictions. Despite federal and state moratoriums, thousands of people have been evicted in Nevada. Landlord groups are opposing the proposed eviction reforms.
The North Carolina General Assembly passed on March 4 the 2021 COVID-19 Response and Relief Bill (HB 196/SB 172). The housing provisions in the bill impact the administration of new rental assistance funding administered by the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency. The North Carolina Housing Coalition is concerned that the provisions will greatly delay and frustrate the state’s efforts to ensure that rental assistance reaches those most in need of assistance in a timely manner.
A diverse group of stakeholders in North Carolina, known as the Eviction Prevention Working Group, formed last December to brainstorm policy interventions to prevent the state’s looming eviction tsunami. Several members of the group penned an op-ed in NC Policy Watch outlining several principles that should guide the state’s approach to distributing federal rent relief to the estimated 435,000 North Carolinians behind on their rent.
The Portland Tribune reports that Oregon lawmakers are ready to invest $500 million in state funds, along with an even larger amount of federal funds, to keep people housed, find them temporary shelters, and expand options for future homeownership.
The Corvallis Gazette-Times reports that Corvallis Housing First received just under $2.5 million to purchase the Corvallis Budget Inn and turn the 24-room hotel into housing for people experiencing homelessness. The funds are part of Project Turnkey, an initiative that is using $65 million in state funding for acquiring motels and hotels to house individuals experiencing homelessness and those displaced by last year’s wildfires.
The Pittsburgh City Council on March 2 unanimously approved a citywide eviction moratorium that will remain in effect until a local health emergency order is lifted. The measure prohibits landlords from evicting tenants, or from refusing to renew lease agreements, for unpaid rent due to COVID-related income loss or increased medical expenses.
A local landlord group is suing the Pittsburgh City Council over the city’s eviction moratorium. The lawsuit claims the ordinance goes beyond the powers granted to the city by state law, and it seeks to declare the moratorium illegal and unconstitutional.
Lancaster County commissioners approved a request by the Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authority to apply for an additional $19.6 million from Pennsylvania’s share of federal rental assistance. If the state approves the request, these funds would add to the $16.2 million the county received directly from the federal government through Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance program.
Judge Rachel Bell of the General Sessions Court of Nashville-Davidson County launched the L.E.G.A.C.Y. Housing Resource Diversionary Court Program to help tenants avoid eviction through settlements with their landlords. The program uses CARES Act funds to provide rental assistance. Over 1,800 pending eviction cases are pending in the Nashville area.
Texas Housers discusses Houston’s grace period eviction ordinance, explaining why it was enacted too late for many renters and how it should be improved.
Utahns in need of rental assistance will have to wait until the state launches its new application process. Applications have been on hold to ensure that new federal guidelines for the rental relief funds are met. Beginning March 15, Utahns can apply through a single, centralized online application. Applicants must request funds from local community action agencies.
Family Crisis Support Services (FCSS) in Southwest Virginia has been awarded $200,000 from the $2.6 million Virginia Eviction Reduction Program. While FCSS has provided eviction prevention and homelessness services long before the pandemic, COVID-19 has exacerbated the area’s housing crisis. “The affordable housing crisis predates the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have to address the underlying causes of evictions if we want to emerge stronger and continue moving Virginia forward,” said Governor Ralph Northam during the grant announcement.
The Seattle Times reports that state lawmakers on March 4 advanced a proposal requiring payment plans and other protections for tenants who have fallen behind on rent. The legislation, which must still pass the state House of Representatives, comes as the statewide eviction moratorium is set to expire on March 31 and more than 134,000 Washington households are behind on rent.