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Policy Update 10-8-20

Pamela Atwood, Director of Housing Policy

Around the State

Wake County Announces Emergency Rental Assistance Program
Last week Wake County announced the availability of emergency rental assistance for Wake County residents impacted by COVID-19. The program is funded through $17 million in direct federal allocations to Wake County from the CARES Act which passed back in March. The rental payment assistance will cover half (50%) of the total back rent someone owes from March to December 2020.

In order for the renter to receive assistance, the renter’s landlord must agree to several parameters, including:

    • Landlord agrees to cancel the remaining balance owed (50%);
    • Landlord must agree to a 25% reduction in rent from January to March 2021;
    • Landlord agrees not to pursue eviction through the end of March 2021.

Recognizing that this arrangement may not be agreeable to a number of landlords, the county will instead cover the cost of legal assistance through Legal Aid of NC if the landlord decides they would rather pursue eviction than receive 50% of what’s owed. In the event the first two approaches are unsuccessful, Wake County will then assist the renter in “relocating.” As of this writing, the particulars of the relocation assistance are unclear. There will be no income eligibility requirements, although staff will make an effort to prioritize assisting low- and moderate-income households. Assistance will be provided on a first come, first served basis.

Wake County estimates that approximately 3000 households will be assisted through this framework. The Coalition will continue to track and monitor rental assistance programs as they are developed in order to understand their impacts and provide information to other agencies working on such assistance.

NC Gubernatorial Candidates on Affordable Housing & Homelessness
As most everyone is aware, 2020 is an election year and North Carolinians are able to submit absentee ballots now. For those who might be interested in learning more about the policy stances of the two Gubernatorial candidates, Gov. Roy Cooper and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Charlotte media outlet released the results of a policy questionnaire posed to both candidates. The questionnaire included questions concerning issues of affordable housing and homeless and how each would tackle if elected. Regarding affordable housing access, Gov. Cooper states that “… the state has a limited role in access to affordable housing…” and pointed out his proposal for a $4.3 billion general obligation bond in 2021, which includes $500 million for affordable housing. As for Lt. Gov. Forest, he states that he “believes government influence and regulations make construction more expensive and prevent developers from building affordable housing.” 


Federal Government Shut Down Avoided
Last week, H.R. 8337, a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the federal government funded and operating was passed by Congress and signed by the President. The CR extends current spending limits in place until December 11, allowing the government to continue past the election in November. The focus on the need for a CR was one of the many factors impeding progress on additional coronavirus relief resources from Congress.

Additional COVID-19 Relief Package Stalled Again
At the time of this writing, President Donald Trump stated via Twitter yesterday (Oct. 6) that he has asked his representatives working on a potential COVID-19 relief package to cease negotiations with Democrat party leaders. Later in the evening he changed his position and instead called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to draft a stimulus bill consisting of additional $1200 stimulus check payments to individuals, assistance to airline companies, and additional Paycheck Protection Program funds. As of this writing, it is unclear where this banter will go next or what, if anything, results of these statements. 

The events of that past 24 hours are concerning and disappointing for housing advocates and advocates for many other issues that need to be addressed by the federal government. During the prior week there had been what was viewed as substantial progress between House Democrats and the White House. Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, reportedly had been meeting daily. Before the President’s Twitter remarks, the House was offering a $2.4 trillion dollar relief package (HEROES v2), including $71 billion for rental and mortgage assistance. Sec. Mnuchin had last proposed a $1.6 trillion package that includes $60 billion for rental and mortgage assistance. Having both sides at a point of including rental and mortgage assistance provisions at amounts not too far off from each other was considered by national housing advocates to be a positive sign that lawmakers understand the need for housing assistance.

The Coalition will keep members updated as talks move in either direction. Please continue to call on NC’s Congressional delegation to prioritize housing assistance in the event a relief package comes to fruition. 

Anti-Racism and Other Anti-Discrimination Trainings Banned by White House
In late September, the White House issued an executive order banning federal funds, grants, and contracts to be used to provide multiple forms of anti-discrimination programming, such as anti-racism or anti-gender discrimination trainings or workshops. National advocates view the manuever as “race baiting” and consider it to a drastic step backwards towards reducing discrimination and inequality. While the EO is not specifically about housing policy, it has numerous negative implications for Fair Housing laws and enforcement and other strategies to improve affordable housing access and ensure racial equity in housing.

Final HUD Disparate Impact Rule Changes Published in Federal Register
On September 24th, the final version of HUD’s proposed changes to the disparate impact rule were published in the Federal Register. The changes go into effect within 30 days of publishing. 

The rule changes are expected to have a devastating effect on fair housing enforcement, making housing discrimination more difficult to prove, and even going so far as to provide defense mechanisms for those accused of discriminatory practices. Essentially the complete opposite intention for the existence of fair housing laws to begin with. For more information about these changes and their implications, please visit our prior blog on the subject.

Reports & Resources

Novogradac – Analysis of Potential Impacts of LIHTC Expansion Under HR 2/AHCIA

National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA) – Analysis of Current and Expected Rental Shortfall and Potential Evictions in the U.S.

Pew Research Center  – Economic Fallout From COVID-19 Continues To Hit Lower-Income Americans the Hardest

New America – Study on housing loss reveals few surprises for urban core (Forsyth County)


National Alliance to End Homelessness: Responding to COVID-19: Conversations with Homeless System Leaders 

Recommended read

Housing Call: October 6, 2020

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