NLIHC Testifies at Washington State House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee on the COVID-19 Housing Crisis

NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel testified on September 16 before the Washington State House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee on the COVID-19 housing crisis. Yentel discussed national and Washington-specific data on housing and homelessness, racial disparities in housing, and the urgent need for congressional action to prevent the impending eviction crisis.

Committee Chair Christine Kilduff opened the hearing by calling attention to widespread concerns about an impending eviction ‘tsunami’ and foreclosure crisis in Washington state and across the country. In Diane’s testimony, shediscussed the severe affordable housing and homelessness crisis we faced before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout. She then shared NLIHC’s research on the shortage of affordable and available homes and the immense cost burdens facing low-income renters in Washington and across the country. When Representative Brad Klippert asked about long-term solutions to the housing crisis, Diane highlighted the need for federal supply-side and demand-side solutions: “When it comes to extremely low-income renters, the private market on its own cannot build and maintain homes that are affordable to them.”

Diane discussed the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 job losses and recession on people of color. She shared research demonstrating Black renters are disproportionately rent-burdened and at risk of eviction in Washington and across the United States and noted that while the current crises have heightened the threat of eviction for Black and brown renters, it is not new. Decades of racist housing policies have created tremendous racial disparities in housing and homelessness. “We have an obligation to center racial equity in our response to the housing needs created by COVID-19,” said Diane. “We must ensure not only that we do not worsen or reinforce racial inequities, but that we utilize neousing and homelessness resources to reverse and correct disparities.”

Diane spoke about housing and homelessness resources and protections enacted at the federal, state, and local levels, including the eviction moratoriums and rental assistance programs in Washington state. She discussed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium, noting that while the federal moratorium postpones evictions, it does not prevent them. The impending eviction crisis is predictable and preventable, but it requires congressional action. Diane outlined the solutions to stemming the tide of evictions and ensuring housing stability before and after the pandemic. When Representative Alex Ybarra asked how policymakers can assist landlords suffering from a loss of rental income, Diane reiterated the urgent need for emergency rental assistance to support low-income renters and landlords and protect our affordable rental housing stock.

Watch a recording of the hearing at: