Around the State
General Assembly Begins Long Legislative Session 1/13
Today (January 13th) the North Carolina General Assembly begins the first year of a new biennial session (2021-2022). Legislators are expected to meet for 1-2 days, handling mostly administrative tasks such as rule-making and formally selecting leadership, before taking a short recess until late January or early February.
Typically the budget is the first of business, with budget discussions beginning this year in the Senate. With the state of the economy and expected revenue decreases, the instinct for some lawmakers will be to reduce program spending. However, it is the Coalition’s perspective that investments in housing programs are critical to the stabilization and economic recovery of North Carolinians from the effects of the pandemic. The case can be made that times like these call for increased investment in housing and other parts of our social infrastructure. Continued and increased funding for the Housing Trust Fund and the Workforce Housing Loan Program will be among the Coalition’s legislative priorities for this session.
Other priorities include ensuring that the state government, via both the General Assembly and the Executive branch agencies, responds quickly and has the capacity to administer federal pandemic response resources, particularly resources to keep people stably housed, whether as renters or homeowners.
For more about the Coalition’s Policy Agenda and 2021 priorities please visit today’s blog and Housing Minute video. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the Coalition’s policy agenda, please contact Pamela Atwood, Director of Housing Policy: firstname.lastname@example.org
Status of Evictions & Rental Assistance Funds
- The CDC Eviction Order temporarily halting evictions nationwide has been extended to expire January 31st.
- Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order #184, extending his previous order (EO #171) affirming that the CDC Order is applicable within North Carolina and should be adhered to statewide. This order runs with the federal CDC order and also expires on January 31.
- NC Court directive, issued by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley recommending the postponement of most in-person civil proceedings in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 will be allowed to expire on January 14th. The directive had the effect of pausing eviction proceedings in many at-risk of eviction. The new Chief Justice, Paul Newby, has announced that courthouses will be encouraged to reopen to in-person activity. Newby recommends local courthouses consult local public health officials on how to do so safely. This will likely mean an increase in eviction related proceedings, despite the Governor’s Executive Order and the CDC Order.
Rental Assistance Funds:
- The U.S. Treasury Department issued guidance regarding the process for states and qualifying local governments to access federal emergency rental assistance funds enacted in the latest pandemic relief package. North Carolina stands to receive approximately $700 million across the state. For more details see our updated post regarding the federal omnibus package.
- The HOPE Program, the state’s rental and utility assistance program, remains closed to new applications. Most local programs have similarly exhausted funds and are not accepting new applications. Federal resources mentioned above are expected to be utilized to replenish and reopen existing programs. The Coalition will provide new details as they are known.
- Cities & Counties eligible to access federal rental assistance funds:
- Charlotte, Durham, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Raleigh, & Winston-Salem
- Buncombe County, Cabarrus County, Cumberland County, Durham County, Forsyth County, Gaston County, Guilford County, Johnston County, Mecklenburg County, New Hanover County, Union County, Wake County
U.S. Treasury Releases Guidance on Rental Assistance Funds
Wednesday, January 6th the U.S. Treasury Department released guidance concerning the release of $25 billion for emergency rental assistance. The guidance outlines the process which qualifying state and local governments must follow in order to draw down Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) earmarked for emergency rental assistance per last month’s enacted COVID-19 relief package. Unlike CRF monies from the previous CARES Act which were automatically allocated to qualifying areas, states and localities must “certify” with the Treasury Department in order to receive the new funds. Overall, the state (across local government and the state) is estimated to be receiving approximately $700 million. Please see our updated blog post for more details. For more details on the Treasury Department certification, please visit: Emergency Rental Assistance Program | US Department of the Treasury
As of this writing, the Coalition is awaiting a final confirmation of which cities and counties were able to complete the certification process and will be receiving direct CRF funds to provide rental assistance.
While the guidance from the Treasury Department answered questions on how and when funds would migrate down from the federal level, many questions remain regarding the implementation and detailed programmatic requirements for the use of these funds. The information released by Treasury largely reiterates the legislative text in describing the broad uses intended. NLIHC, with input from housing stakeholders across the country, prepared a Letter of Recommendations & Questions to the US Treasury that need to be addressed in order for states and localities to efficiently utilize the funds to provide emergency rental assistance as quickly as possible. The Coalition will share widely further details from the Treasury Department as they become available.
Power Shift in U.S. Senate Signals Possibility of Bold Legislative Proposals
The results of the Georgia Senate runoff elections shift the balance of power in DC. With legislative majorities in both chambers of Congress, the incoming Biden administration could see a wave of policies that would increase the supply of, quality of, and equitable access to more affordable housing.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has been in conversation with both the incoming HUD Secretary, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and President-Elect Joe Biden’s Transition Team regarding national housing priorities and concerns. NLIHC has prepared a memo outlining recommended actions that the White House, HUD, and Congress can take to prevent a wave of housing loss for millions of people. For more details, see NLIHC’s transition memo.
Reports & Resources
Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies – Black and Hispanic Renters Face Greatest Threat of Eviction in Pandemic
Housing Policy Debate – Eviction and Segmented Housing Markets in Richmond, Virginia
University of Southern California Sol Price Center for Social Innovation – How do Renters Cope with Unaffordability?