Senate Banking Committee Holds Hearing on Housing Regulation During COVID-19

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a virtual hearing entitled “Oversight of Housing Regulators” on June 9. HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mark Calabria offered testimony and answered questions on the efficacy and implementation of financial programs created by the CARES Act and FHFA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In his opening remarks, Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) described racial disparities in the economic impact of COVID-19. “Nearly half of Black and 40 percent of Latino renters report that they’re unlikely to be able to make their next payment. We’re in the middle of a crisis,” the senator stated. “Our emergency rental assistance bill provides $100 billion to help with rent and utility bills, so we can help renters avoid impossible choices – between rent and groceries, or prescriptions, or draining their savings, or going to a payday lender. It already passed the House. But it is sitting on the majority leader’s desk collecting dust. For millions of families, the bills keep coming and the clock keeps ticking and the stress keeps mounting.”

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) asked Secretary Carson about the timeline for the release of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds allocated to HUD under the CARES Act, emphasizing that these funds are critical and time-sensitive. Secretary Carson stated that HUD had released its first round of CDBG funding in record time and had already distributed $9.1 billion of the $12.4 billion allocated to HUD in the CARES Act. When pressed on an exact timeline for the administration of the remaining funds, Secretary Carson indicated that all funds would be distributed by October 1. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) continued to press Secretary Carson on the timeline, asking whether he could accelerate the process. Secretary Carson indicated that HUD was working as quickly as possible to try to get the funding allocated before the October 1 deadline. 

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) pressed Director Calabria on what the FHFA was doing to address illegal evictions that are taking place despite the current moratorium, especially those occurring in housing that benefits from the agency’s forbearance policies. Director Calabria explained that the FHFA has little enforcement power but was trying to raise awareness of the issue. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) expressed concern about the potential uptick in evictions after the CARES Act moratorium expires and back-rent is owed. Secretary Carson urged all renters to proactively reach out to their landlords and public housing authorities. 

Watch a webcast of the hearing at: