CHN: Eviction Disaster Averted?
The moratorium on evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control expires at the end of December. The COVID relief bill would extend the moratorium through the end of January. Significantly, the bill also provides $25 billion in emergency rental assistance, long sought by housing advocates who recognize that whenever the eviction ban ends, tenants who have accumulated one or more months of back rent will be unable to pay. Millions of evictions could begin soon, since landlords have been allowed to file for eviction proceedings in court, although they are barred from carrying out the eviction for tenants protected by the moratorium. (Some tenants are not protected because the CDC required them to fill out a form attesting to their inability to pay, and many did not know about the form.) The $25 billion can also be used to pay back utility and home energy bills, to prevent shutoffs. $800 million is reserved for Native American housing units. The National Energy Assistance Directors Association estimates that tens of billions of dollars are owed in back utility/energy bills, and that without help, shutoffs will occur.
While the $25 billion in emergency rental assistance is praised by advocates at the National Low Income Housing Coalition as a vital first step, they have called for $100 billion in order to prevent evictions by helping tenants with arrearages to pay their rent.
In regular FY21 housing assistance appropriations within the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are some increases for rental assistance. Tenant-based rental assistance (most of which covers rental vouchers) rises from $23.9 billion in FY 20 to $25.8 billion in FY 21. Project-based rental assistance increases from $12.57 billion to $13.46 billion. Homelessness assistance rises from $2.78 billion to $3 billion. The FY21 appropriations bill increases funding for lead paint hazard reduction from $290 million to $360 million, to prevent childhood lead poisoning in publicly funded housing units. Within the Department of Agriculture, rural rental assistance programs rise from $1.375 billion in FY20 to $1.41 billion in FY21.