Around the State
NCORR Rolls Out HOPE Program Providing Rent & Utility Assistance
Thursday, October 15th Governor Roy Cooper announced the opening of the state’s program to provide emergency rental and utility assistance to low- and moderate-income households facing housing instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, Housing Opportunities & Preventing Evictions (HOPE), announced by Gov. Cooper in August and administered by the NC Office of Recovery & Resiliency (NCORR), utilizes $117 million in federal CARES Act resources to assist households struggling with past due rent and utility payments.
The 211 system serves as the network to conduct intake, screen applicant eligibility, and connect individuals to the appropriate financial assistance. Individuals in need of assistance are urged to apply immediately via the online application or by dialing 2-1-1 on a phone. The program will remain open to applicants until December 30th or once funds are exhausted. At the current pace of applications, NCORR officials expect to have allotted all current funds well before that date. Again, anyone who needs assistance should apply now to ensure resources are available.
The HOPE program is funded by federal resources that the state has received through the CARES Act, which was enacted in late March. Of the $117 million in funds, $66 million is coming from the Coronavirus Relief Fund and $51 million is from CDBG-CV funds to the state (see our previous blog for more details on CDBG-CV).
Wake County Rental Assistance Program Increases Assistance Amount
At the end of September Wake County announced the availability of emergency rental assistance for Wake County residents impacted by COVID-19. The program, House Wake!, is funded through $17 million in direct federal allocations to Wake County from the CARES Act which passed back in March. Initially the program was designed to cover half (50%) of the total back rent someone owes from March 2020 to December 2020, with the landlord forgiving the remaining 50%. In light of the availability of rental assistance through NCORR via the HOPE program, Wake County has increased the amount of funds available to each individual. With the HOPE program now available to absorb some of the regional needs, Wake County felt they could extend the amount of support they could offer.
House Wake! will now provide 100% of back rent owed up to six months. The landlord would now only be required to forgive any rental amounts owed in excess of six months worth. For example, for a tenant owing seven months of back rent, Wake will provide full payment for six months worth. The landlord would then be required to forgive the remaining one month owed, as opposed to the original requirement where they would have had to waive 50% of 6 months (or approx 3 months worth). This change should make participation more enticing to a wider range of rental providers and more effectively keep people housed. For more details on the program, visit the October 8th Policy Update.
Chief Justice Beasley Extends Use of CARES Act Affidavit in Eviction Filings
Last Thursday (Oct. 15th), Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced the extension of multiple COVID-19 responses undertaken by the NC Courts, including Emergency Directive #18 requiring landlords to also include an affidavit confirming compliance with the Federal CARES Act in any residential eviction for nonpayment of rent.
The CARES Act, passed in March, included a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures in properties that are either federally subsidized or financed with federally secured mortgages. In response, the NC Courts promulgated the aforementioned affidavit to ensure compliance across the state. The CARES Act moratorium expired in July and the current CDC order halting evictions does not automatically apply to properties previously covered by the CARES Act moratorium. Nonetheless the extension of Emergency Directive #18, theoretically may offer some level of protection to renters in that it retains the additional step of the affidavit in the eviction process, thus lengthening the process somewhat. Thus far, the NC Courts’ guidance on the CDC Order is that the order does not affect the state’s eviction process and that courts and court employees are not obligated to inform either tenants or landlords of the CDC order.
EEFA NC Launches “Connected in Crisis” Effort
On Monday, the NC Energy Efficiency for All campaign, of which the Coalition is a partner along with the NC Justice Center, launched the “Connected in Crisis” effort in order to specifically advocate for on-going emergency protections concerning utility service access for low-income households. Specifically, Governor Roy Cooper is being called upon to reinstate a moratorium on utility disconnections of low-income households, at the very least. The effort consists of a website where visitors can directly generate a letter to Governor Cooper asking that the moratorium be reinstated. There is also an associated Facebook ad campaign directing people to the website and links to resources for utility assistance. If your organization is interested in being listed as a supporter of this campaign, please contact NCHC Policy Director, Pamela Atwood at email@example.com.
NCHFA Releases 2nd Draft of the 2021 QAP
On Monday, the NC Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) released the second draft of the 2021 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). The QAP is the set of guidelines that oversee the eligibility criteria and process by which Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) are allocated each year. Each state is required to draft a QAP annually. Among the significant changes from the first draft are:
- The addition of a Set-Aside for Choice Neighborhoods Implementation funds
- The distance for maximum amenity points has increased to 1.5 miles
- The maximum development costs allowed has increased to $85,000 per unit
- The proposed First Tie-Breaker is now the least amount of 9% units created over the last 5 years.
NCHFA staff considered comments and feedback that have been submitted thus far. Staff will continue to collect feedback in making revisions towards a final QAP. Comments can be submitted to Chris Austin, Director of Rental Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update on COVID-19 Relief Package
At the national level, discussions over an additional COVID-19 relief package have continued with some progress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) & Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have been talking over the last few days. House Democrats are currently offering a $2.2 trillion package and the White House is proposing a $1.88 trillion package. While some ground has been made there are still multiple hurdles to overcome, including disagreement over specific provisions.
Democrats want to see more money for state & local governments while Republicans want to see more for funds the Paycheck Protection Program and liability protections for businesses. There is also the issue of a number of Senate Republicans viewing even the White House’s proposal of $1.88 trillion as “too much money.” House Speaker Pelosi had set a self-imposed deadline of October 20 to determine whether or not a deal is going to be possible before election day on November 3rd. As of this writing (October 21), there is no word on whether an agreement was reached. The Coalition will update members immediately if there is movement on an agreed upon relief package. Meanwhile Senate Majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is planning to hold a vote today (October 21) on a $500 billion bare-bones relief package which does not include funds for housing resources. This bill does not have support of the House or the White House.
If consensus on a relief package is not reached in the next few days, it is likely that negotiations will be stalled again until the lame duck session, after the elections. Some national advocates are concerned that, depending on the outcome of the Presidential and Congressional races, relief resources will not be enacted until late January 2021, after a new session of Congress is started and potentially a change in Presidential administrations.
Resources, Reports, & Events
New HUD CDBG-CV Website: https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-cv/
National Leased Housing Association (NLHA) and ndp analytics – Impacts of COVID-19 on Low- and Moderate Income Housing Providers
Center for Budget & Policy Priorities – Tracking the COVID-19 Recession’s Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Hardships
NC Womens Affordable Housing Network (NC WAHN) – LinkedIn Branding Lunch-and-Learn
Nov. 4th from 12 – 1 PM