Around the State
Status Updates on Evictions & Rental Assistance
Last week President Biden directed the CDC to extend the national eviction moratorium to March 31st. Federal agencies also extended moratoria preventing evictions and foreclosures in federally-backed properties and extended the application period for entering forbearance. In North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper has extended Executive Order 184 affirming the applicability of the CDC order in North Carolina and requiring landlords to inform tenants of the order. The order now expires at the end of March in line with the federal order.
With regards to the most recent federal rental assistance funds and their implementation in North Carolina, the U.S. Treasury Department has yet to release a breakdown of allocation amounts going to the state and eligible localities of NC’s $702 M in Coronavirus Relief Fund Rental Assistance. If all eligible localities signed up to receive funds, it is estimated the state’s share would be about $542 million. Numerous implementation & policy questions remain and additional clarification from the U.S. Treasury is needed. As of this writing, it also remains unclear where the state’s portion will be administered. The HOPE Program is the most obvious destination, however, no announcements have been made. We expect action may be needed by the General Assembly and/or Governor Cooper. HOPE Program administrators maintain that they are committed to providing rental assistance and are ready to administer the newest funding source if called to do so.
The sooner a decision is made on where to implement, the sooner that administrators can begin in earnest to develop program design and processes. Whereas North Carolina has yet to decide on the path for its latest rental assistance, states like Minnesota and Nebraska are readying to open their programs to applicants on February 1st, in just a handful of days.
Aside from awaiting whether or not NCORR’s HOPE Program will be administering the expected $542 million in rental and utility assistance, NCORR continues to process accepted assistance applications received in 2020 and make payment disbursements. In an effort to address concerns from landlords and property owners, NCORR is expected to announce policy and process changes to encourage greater acceptance of rental payments. NCORR is also working on arrangements with utility providers to make batch payments for numerous customers in order to speed up disbursing utility assistance. As of mid-January the HOPE Program had distributed over $62 million in rental and utility assistance to over 42,000 households.
General Assembly Returns
The North Carolina General Assembly returns to Raleigh this week to begin substantive legislative work. Budgets, appropriations, and revenue are the usual focus at the beginning of the session. However, with COVID-19 relief resources to be delegated and COVID-related responses needed from the state, that is expected to be a focus at the outset as well. Some expect the 2021 session to be particularly long with the long list of urgent needs before legislators. House Committee assignments were announced this week and can be found here.
The Coalition is currently finalizing 2021 legislative priorities. The Coalition’s 2021 Policy Agenda, an overarching framework, that guides our work can be found on the website.
List of 2021 LIHTC Pre-Applications Released
Last week, the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency released the list of preliminary applications received for 2021 allocations of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). The most notable trend from this year’s batch, is an increase in the number of 4% bond applications representing a doubling of the number of units proposed. Demand for housing credits remains high. NCHFA received 164 preliminary 9% applications in 60 counties. 156 of which are for new construction developments and 8 rehabilitation projects.
McDougald Terrace One Year Later
January marks the one-year anniversary of residents being evacuated from the McDougald Terrace public housing complex in Durham due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The crisis was sparked by the sudden death of an infant and the multiple residents being sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning. For a look back at the crisis and updates on resident one year later please visit the following news reports:
- A year after carbon monoxide crisis, some McDougald Terrace residents still live in fear
- ‘I want to be stable’: 1 year after McDougald Terrace carbon monoxide crisis, residents continue to face problems
- Frustrated McDougald Terrace residents lash out at Durham leaders
- Crews start checking carbon monoxide levels at other Durham housing complexes
- Elevated levels of carbon monoxide at McDougald Terrace raise concern
Immediate Executive Actions on Housing from President Biden
Shortly after being inaugurated, President Joseph Biden immediately utilized numerous executive actions to address the nation’s most critical issues – the COVID-19 public health and economic crises – and to undo actions taken during the previous administration. Among the executive actions and orders taken in Biden’s first week in office are several moves on both immediate housing needs and long-term structural issues.
The executive actions to address urgent housing needs include:
- Extending the national CDC order halting evictions to March 31st;
- Extending moratoria on evictions and foreclosures in properties with federally-backed mortgages to March 31st;
- Extending the application period for homeowners to request forbearances on federally-backed mortgages (FHA, VA, USDA home loans); and
- Increasing the percentage of costs (from 75% to 100%) that FEMA will reimburse local agencies for providing non-congregate sheltering options to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
To address deeper structural policy issues that affect housing systems, the Biden administration ordered these actions:
- Rescind actions taken under the Trump administration to prohibit research on racial disparities and training on issues of racial equity, diversity, and inclusion;
- Commit administration to redressing federal government’s role in the creation and maintenance of systems and structures that are racially discriminatory; and
- Order HUD to immediately assess the impacts of recent HUD rule changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing and Disparate Impact rules and to then take actions to combat racially discriminatory impacts.
For more details on the implications of these moves, please visit today’s blog.
Update on COVID-19 Relief
Congressional leaders have begun discussing legislative proposals to provide additional pandemic relief and address infrastructure needs. While Democrats hold out hope to reach a bipartisan agreement on the next relief package, they may invoke “reconciliation,” a legislative tool allowing legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes typically required. Lawmakers are aiming to pass a new round of pandemic relief by mid-March, when the unemployment benefits extended in the most recent relief package are slated to expire.
Once the next coronavirus relief package is finalized, Congress is expected to shift attention to drafting a budget resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2022 with reconciliation instructions for President Biden’s infrastructure proposal. FY22 will be the first time in a decade appropriators will not be limited by the mandatory budget caps on non-defense discretionary spending imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. These budget caps have prevented Congress from investing in HUD programs at the scale necessary to help individuals and communities thrive.
President Biden’s $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Proposal
President Biden recently released a $1.9 trillion legislative proposal for a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package, that includes essential resources and protections for renters and people experiencing homelessness. This package if passed would be in addition to the most recently-enacted relief measures.
President-elect Biden calls for the following housing provisions:
- An extension of the federal eviction moratorium through September 2021;
- $30 billion in emergency rental and utility assistance;
- $1,400 stimulus checks; and
- $5 billion to address the health and housing needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Additionally, Biden proposes to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, further expand unemployment benefits, provide a 15% increase in food assistance (SNAP), increase the Child Tax Credit, and many other economic supports. Advocates are calling on Congress to pass this legislation as quickly as possible.
While the proposal is a big step towards meeting the scale of the economic devastation facing millions of people, more resources are needed. (Additional recommendations on needed housing priorities for the next COVID-19 relief package can be found here).
In the meantime, here in North Carolina we will need to remain vigilant to ensure the efficient and targeted implementation of the most recently enacted housing resources. For an update on NC’s allocated emergency rental assistance funds, please visit our blog update.
Go here to read Biden’s proposal: American Rescue Plan.
Biden Cabinet Confirmations
Monday night Janet Yellen was confirmed by the Senate as the new Secretary of the Treasury. Yellen becomes the first female Treasury Secretary. During Yellen’s confirmation hearings she backed up the need for large scale investment in additional COVID-19 relief measures, such as the $1.9 trillion proposal from President Biden. With Yellen now confirmed, the Treasury department is expected to provide additional guidance on the latest round of $25 billion rental assistance. Earlier in January the Treasury released guidance that largely created more confusion by conflicting with the enacting legislation.
Thursday morning confirmation hearings will begin on Biden’s nominee for HUD Secretary, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio. The first hearings will take place in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs. The proceedings will be livestreamed here:
Thursday 1/28 at 10 a.m.
Nomination Hearing | United States Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
IRS Extends Temporary Relief to LIHTC Projects Impacted by COVID-19
On January 15th, the IRS issued a notice extending temporary relief to LIHTC projects facing COVID related difficulties. The notice extends numerous deadlines including around income certifications, compliance monitoring, and placed-in-service dates. The guidance also allows QAP related meetings to be held virtually. Visit this site for more information.
Legal Aid of NC: Tenant Rights Clinic
Harvard Joint Center on Housing Studies – The Rent Eats First: Rental Housing Unaffordability in the US
Recent data analysis from Corelogic – Mortgage Delinquency Date – October 2020
NYU Furman Center on Housing – Through the Roof
Shelterforce – What’s Abolitionist Housing Policy?