NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel begins NLIHC’s 2020 Annual Report commenting, “The pandemic made starkly clear that housing is healthcare and the collective harm that comes from allowing homelessness and housing poverty in America to persist. The year also vividly showed the deep structural racism on which our country, and so many of its systems, was built, and how that structural racism harms and kills Black, Indigenous and other people of color. And it made clear our collective responsibility to repair this deep injustice, to work towards racial and housing justice.”
In addressing these challenges, Diane points out, “Through our collective advocacy, and the leadership of extraordinary congressional champions, we achieved substantial resources to keep safe people experiencing homelessness; we secured a national eviction moratorium which, while flawed, is the first of its kind in our history, keeping tens of millions of renters stably housed during the pandemic; and we won passage of $46 billion in emergency rental assistance, to address the rent and utility arrears that accrued during the pandemic, disproportionately among the lowest-income renters and people of color.”
The Annual Report highlights other NLIHC activities responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- Hosted weekly national calls (each attended by 800-2,500 people) since the start of the pandemic on coronavirus, disasters, housing, and homelessness. The calls shared information on: how federal, state, and local governments and nonprofits were responding; how the crisis was impacting people experiencing homelessness and low-income renters; what more needed to be done by policy makers; and how advocates could most effectively make those actions occur.
- Launched and lead smaller, more focused “working-group” calls weekly or biweekly, attended by 60-100 participants on legislation strategy, working with FEMA, and state and local response and implementation.
- Created a regularly updated webpage with key information from across the country. The webpage included: a searchable database and interactive map of all properties in the U.S. protected by CARES Act federal eviction moratoriums; a listing and map of all state and local rental assistance programs; and a toolkit and guide on the challenges, obstacles, and policy recommendations for working with FEMA.
- Published four research reports about the need for emergency rental assistance, state and local rental assistance programs during the pandemic, emergency rental assistance programs developed in response to the pandemic, and the costs of evictions during the pandemic.
- Tracked more than 700 state and local emergency rental assistance programs, documenting challenges, best practices, and lessons learned.
- Led a sign-on letter that included more than 1,500 organizations and elected officials, urging the CDC director to extend the first eviction moratorium beyond December 31 with improvements, and later sent the letter to all members of Congress to urge continuing the eviction moratorium to January 31, 2021.
Among other actions in response to 2020’s blistering spotlight exposing deep structural racism, NLIHC held a three-part live-stream discussion series on “Racial Equity and Housing Justice during and after COVID-19,” each attended by 5,000-8,500 participants. The three sessions were with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
NLIHC leads Opportunity Starts at Home (OSAH), a multi-sector affordable homes campaign comprising leading national organizations representing health, education, civil rights, criminal justice, food security, social work, and faith communities as well as affordable housing. OSAH hosted a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill on January 14 to discuss two major bipartisan housing bills introduced in the Senate, the “Eviction Crisis Act” and the “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act.” OSAH also released a national opinion poll revealing that Americans across the political spectrum were deeply concerned about housing instability due to the pandemic and favored major action from Congress to prevent evictions and homelessness.
NLIHC released three issues of Tenant Talk, a publication by and for residents of public and assisted housing and those in need of such housing assistance. NLIHC continued its Tenant Talk Live resident engagement call/webinar series, which provides opportunities for residents to connect with NLIHC and with one another.
NLIHC continued to produce Out of Reach and The Gap research reports valued and utilized by advocates every year. Other research reports not related to the coronavirus pandemic included, Picture of Preservation, Fixing America’s Broken Disaster Housing Recovery System and Housing Is Healthcare.
NLIHC’s 2020 Annual Report is at: https://bit.ly/2Wku8x5