NLIHC released a statement on March 10 – the two-year anniversary of the enactment of the “American Rescue Plan Act” (ARPA) – celebrating the tremendous success of ARPA in addressing the health and housing needs of America’s lowest-income and most marginalized households and providing communities nationwide the resources needed to build a stronger housing safety net.
“The unprecedented resources and protections enacted in the American Rescue Plan and other pandemic legislation kept millions of renters stably housed and saved lives,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in the statement. “The legislation has helped develop much needed housing infrastructure and moved our nation one step closer to ensuring that affordable, stable housing is universally available to all.”
During the pandemic, as many as 12 million households were at risk of losing their homes without immediate action. Because of strong leadership provided by Congress and the Biden-Harris administration and the significant housing resources enacted in the American Rescue Plan Act:
- The national eviction moratorium and $46 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) helped millions of renters avoid evictions and, in the worst cases, homelessness. An estimated 9.7 million ERA payments, amounting to at least $34 billion, have been provided to renter households who were behind on their rent during the pandemic. Together with the eviction moratorium, these resources halved eviction filings nationwide to the lowest level on record. More than 80% of ERA resources were delivered to extremely low-income and very low-income households facing the greatest risk of eviction. The funding reached those who are most marginalized, with more than 40% of those receiving assistance identifying as Black, more than 20% identifying as Latino, and close to two-thirds living in female-headed households.
- American Rescue Plan resources allowed communities to permanently rehouse 140,000 people experiencing homelessness and begin construction on 40,000 deeply affordable homes, with the help of Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHVs), new funding for the construction of affordable housing, state and local relief funds, and by adopting the evidence-based Housing First approach.
- Emergency Housing Vouchers also enabled communities to prevent homelessness for over 46,800 households. The EHV program is leasing at a rate faster than any previous HUD housing voucher program due to new flexibilities and resources that help individuals and families with higher barriers successfully use housing vouchers.
- State and local governments invested $14.2 billion through September 2022 in Fiscal Recovery Fund dollars to support nearly 1,800 housing affordability projects, including short-term housing assistance and the development of new, permanent affordable housing.
- Building on the momentum of the federal eviction moratorium and ERA, advocates have successfully enacted or implemented more than 165 state or local renter protections to prevent evictions and keep tenants stably housed.
Despite the tremendous success of the American Rescue Plan, the legislation was not intended to solve the longstanding causes of housing affordability. Even before the pandemic, millions of extremely low-income households – those with incomes at or below either the federal poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income (AMI), whichever is greater – struggled to remain housed, always one financial shock away from falling behind on rent and being threatened with eviction and, in the worst cases, homelessness. On any given night, more than half a million people experienced homelessness, and millions more were at risk.
The underlying cause of America’s housing and homelessness crisis is the severe shortage of homes affordable and available to people with the lowest incomes and the widening gap between incomes and housing costs. There is a national shortage of over 7 million homes that are affordable and available to America’s lowest-income renters. Without affordable housing options, 10 million of the lowest-income renter households pay at least half of their income on rent, putting them at higher risk of eviction and homelessness. Despite the clear and urgent need, Congress only provides housing assistance to one in four eligible households.
Now, as emergency resources are being depleted and pandemic-era renter protections expire, renters are faced with record-high rents, eviction filing rates that are reaching or surpassing pre-pandemic averages, and, in many communities, increasing homelessness.
To fully address the housing and homelessness crisis that existed prior to the pandemic and to fix our nation’s housing safety net, Congress and the Biden-Harris administration must invest in long-term solutions to the underlying shortage of affordable, accessible homes and improve renter protections for the lowest-income people. This starts with making rental assistance universally available to everyone in need, preserving and expanding the supply of homes affordable to people with the lowest incomes, preventing evictions and homelessness, and strengthening and enforcing renter protections.
Read the statement here.