The CARES Act eviction moratorium expires today, as the U.S. House and Senate are yet to engage in discussions how to support renters in the protracted economic downturn amid rising Covid-19 cases.
The end of the federal eviction ban, which covers any multifamily properties that receive federal assistance, comes when a slew of local moratoriums are also being lifted, which places one in five renters at risk of displacement by Sept. 30.
According to CNBC Make It, the Senate coronavirus stimulus bill, whose introduction to the public was postponed earlier this week, does not include any relief for renters, although this may change in later negotiations with the House.
A narrower stop on evictions, mandated through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to cover only buildings with mortgages the two enterprises secure, remains in place through the end of August.
While Capitol Hill is stalling on quickly providing further assistance, letting the eviction ban lapse, Americans seem to overwhelmingly support more rent relief measures.
According to a survey conducted by Data for Progress for the Justice Collaborative, 75 percent of likely voters support the federal government providing funds to compensate landlords as well as lenders in order to forgive rent and mortgages. Some 62 percent of likely voters said rent relief programs should retroactively apply to the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March.
Here are the bills in Congress that aim to provide assistance to struggling renters.
The HEROES Act
The omnibus $3 trillion bill, which the House adopted in May, earmarks $100 billion for assistance with rent and other housing costs such as utilities, relocations, security deposits and fees. The provision targets low- and medium-income renters, who earn less than 80% of the median income in their metropolitan area.
Administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the rent relief would flow to states for distribution. Some 40% of the funds that each state receives would have to go to renters whose income does not exceed 30% of the area median income. Those with income no larger than 50% of the median income would be eligible for 70% of the overall assistance, while any remaining amounts could go to families earning no more than 80% of the area median income. Native American renter households would receive 2% of allocated funds.
The rent relief program in the HEROES Act has a counterpart in the Senate, where Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sponsored a similar bill.
Rep. Maxine Waters’ “Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020”
The “Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020” spins the housing mandates laid out in the HEROES Act into a stand-alone legislation that the House approved in late June, about a month after it adopted the omnibus relief package.
“This was part of the [HEROES] Act that passed this House, but we have been waiting on the Senate to take up the [HEROES] Act,” Rep. Maxine Waters, who introduced the bill, said in a floor statement on June 29. “They are not taking it up, they don’t seem to care, they don’t seem to understand that there are people out there who are going to be evicted, and so we have pulled it out of the [HEROES] Act and we are taking it up independently so that we can send a message to the Senate that we want this measure heard.”
The “Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020” includes $100 billion for an emergency rent relief fund, extends the eviction ban for all renters (the CARES Act encompasses only properties receiving federal assistance), allocates $18 million for homeless assistance, and established a lending facility to help landlords pay their financial obligations.
Sen. Kamala Harris’ RELIEF Act
The “Rent Emergencies Leave Impacts on Evicted Families (RELIEF) Act” is a rather comprehensive bill that stops evictions for a year; prohibits the shutoff of utilities such as water, electricity and gas; prevents landlords from raising rent; and provides an 18-month grace period for tenants to make up any missed rent payments.
Moreover, Sen. Harris’ proposal would stop landlords from reporting any unpaid rent to credit agencies, while holding exploitative or delinquent property owners accountable. The bill directs the Congressional Oversight Commission, which the CARES Act established, to scrutinize landlords’ conduct and provides subpoena and prosecution authority to state Attorneys General so that they can investigate violations of renter protections.
The RELIEF Act also established renters’ right to legal assistance, a mandate that a handful of states have adopted on their own, and allocates funds to provide counsel to tenants during court proceedings.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “Protecting Renters from Evictions and Fees Act of 2020”
Introduced in the Senate in late June, Sen. Warren’s bill institutes a one-year eviction moratorium beginning retroactively on March 27. During that period, landlords cannot remove tenants for rent nonpayment or charge late fees or other penalties for missed rent.
After the moratorium expires, property owners will have to give a 30-day notice to renters before starting any eviction proceedings.
Reps. Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) have introduced the “Protecting Renters from Evictions and Fees Act of 2020” in the House.
Rep. Maxine Waters’ “Emergency Housing Voucher Act of 2020”
Waters proposes the allocation of $10 billion for the creation of 200,000 incremental emergency Section 8 vouchers, administered through HUD.
Those eligible for emergency vouchers are low-income families who are homeless, at risk of losing their residence, or escaping domestic violence.
If the bill becomes law, HUD will have two months to distribute at least a half of the funds to local housing agencies, which will not be able to reissue emergency vouchers when the one-time Covid-related assistance runs out.
In the Senate, Sen. Brown backs the proposal.