White House Hosts Virtual Summit on Eviction Prevention

The White House hosted a virtual Eviction Prevention Summit on June 30 to help municipalities identify and adopt evidence-based strategies to stabilize families and prevent evictions. The summit featured an hour-long opening public plenary panel with key administration officials followed by private breakout sessions with teams from nearly 50 cities that face the greatest eviction risks. NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel provided opening remarks for the invite-only portion, highlighting the urgent need for communities to design and administer accessible emergency rental assistance (ERA) programs that reach people with the lowest incomes who are at greatest risk of eviction.

Susan Rice, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, opened the Summit by emphasizing the administration’s commitment to assisting renters and discussing the whole-of-government approach to do so announced on June 24. Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo highlighted the importance of ERA in preventing evictions, and White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling outlined why eviction diversion programs are an effective immediate intervention to prevent a historic wave of evictions when the federal moratorium expires at the end of July. Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted and principal investigator at the Eviction Lab, provided an overview of the latest research, including data on risk of eviction following the expiration of the moratorium and how eviction diversion programs could reduce these risks.

Patricia Lee Refo, president of the American Bar Association, moderated a panel on coordinating eviction diversion and ERA programs to keep renters housed. Panelists included Rasheedah Phillips, managing attorney of housing policy at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia; the Honorable Bridget Mary McCormack, chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court; Rene Solis, chief program officer at BakerRipley; and Gilbert Winn, CEO of WinnCompanies. Panelists discussed best practices for combining rental assistance and eviction-diversion programs, highlighting concrete actions communities can take to prevent evictions.

Following the panel, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta discussed recommendations and best practices from a recent letter she sent to chief justices of state supreme courts and state court administrators. Attorney General Gupta highlighted the fact that eviction is an issue of racial, gender, and disability equity, poverty and economic security, and public health. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge concluded the opening session of the summit by highlighting HUD’s efforts to prevent evictions and underscoring the urgent need to keep people housed.

Federal officials and invited speakers agreed that confronting the eviction crisis will require intensive collaboration among public officials, court officials, legal services, local bar associations, community-based organizations, ERA program administrators, landlords, tenants, and other stakeholders. Multiple speakers stated that the influx of federal resources provides an opportunity to reinvent how the nation addresses evictions, noting that we have never had a national infrastructure to prevent evictions and their long-term, negative impacts on individuals and families.

NLIHC’s Diane Yentel provided opening remarks for the summit’s second session, describing ERA best practices based on NLIHC’s tracking of over 1,000 state and local programs, including about 450 funded through Treasury’s ERA program, and NLIHC’s joint research with NYU Furman Center and the Housing Initiative at Penn. She urged states and localities to look beyond ERA program design to protect renters by implementing or extending local eviction moratoriums, establishing right-to-counsel programs, and using ERA to fund legal aid attorneys. Finally, Diane emphasized the need for long-term solutions, including universal housing vouchers, robust renter protections, and a National Housing Stabilization Fund.

Speakers at the second session included Erika Poethig, special assistant to the president for housing and urban policy at the White House Domestic Policy Council; Clarence Wardell, chief data and equitable delivery officer for the White House American Rescue Plan implementation; Emily Benfer, visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University School of Law; and Danielle Hirsch, principal court management consultant at the National Center for State Courts.

Following the speakers’ remarks, attendees participated in breakout discussions with others from their city to develop eviction-prevention action plans before reporting on these plans to the larger group. NLIHC Vice President of Public Policy Sarah Saadian facilitated one of the breakout sessions.

Access a readout of the White House Eviction Prevention Summit at: https://bit.ly/3haS2De