Around the State
Chief Justice Beasley Issues Directive to Postpone Court Proceedings Until Mid-January
Last week, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced that the majority of non-essential, in-person court proceedings will be postponed for 30 days, beginning on Monday, December 14th per an official directive issued Monday 12/14.
Chief Justice Beasley’s order comes “…in light of the recent surge of new COVID-19 cases…” across North Carolina and seeks to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 in courthouses statewide and among the general public. Postponing non-essential proceedings, such as civil cases and small claims cases, limits the need for people to appear in court and interact with others outside of their households. Processes that can occur virtually or through electronic means will continue. “Essential” court cases would typically be those involving immediate safety/harm concerns such as criminal matters, domestic violence, or family court.
For housing, this means that most cases of evictions for nonpayment will likely be postponed past the expiration of the CDC Order, currently set for December 31st. Forbearance related proceedings would also be delayed until mid-January.
Despite this reprieve in the state, emergency action is still needed to provide rental, utility, and mortgage assistance to prevent continued damage and long-term devastation. This order does not cancel rent nor provide resources to prevent housing loss. Please see today’s blog regarding the potential COVID-19 relief package being negotiated in Congress right now.
State Supreme Court Affirms General Assembly Ability to Direct Federal Block Grants
Friday afternoon the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled 6-1 in favor of affirming previous court rulings that the General Assembly has the ability to control how federal block grants are spent. The lawsuit, Cooper v. Moore, stems from a 2017 dispute between Governor Roy Cooper and the General Assembly over the use of $17 million in federal block grants. The General Assembly chose to direct the funds towards uses different than what Cooper had allocated them to in his budget proposal. Cooper argued that the federal funds in question fall under the executive branch’s purview and that legislators had encroached on executive authority. Justice Anita Earls was the lone dissenting vote, arguing that “The particular federal block grants…in this case are appropriately subject to the [Governor’s] discretion…”
The case has implications for how federal housing funds, such as HOME and CDBG, are used in the state. Federal funds appropriated to the state typically are disbursed out to the relevant state agencies by the executive branch. This court case may open the door to changes in this process in the future.
General Assembly Update
The session is due to begin on January 13, 2021. Lawmakers are expected to work in Raleigh for 1-2 days of organizational and administrative business. Then they are expected to recess until February 17. Budgetary matters are expected to be the immediate priorities. The Coalition will keep members posted on housing related spending bills.
This schedule could be upended if Congress passes additional federal COVID-19 relief resources and measures. The GA would then be called into session to immediately allocate resources coming to North Carolina. The Coalition will keep members informed of any developments on COVID relief. See below for an update on Congress.
2021 LIHTC Pre-Applications Now Available
The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) opened the 2021 Pre-Application portal this week. Pre-apps are due January 22, 2021. The final version of the 2021 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) is expected to be released in the next few days.
Update on COVID-19 Relief Package
Congressional leaders continue negotiations on additional COVID-19 relief. As of this writing, the relief package includes the following provisions:
- $25 billion in emergency rental assistance,
- Extension of the deadline to spend CARES Act monies to December 31, 2021,
- One month extension of the CDC Eviction Order to January 31, 2021.
For more details on the relief provisions being debated and the progress of negotiations, please see today’s blog.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) is President-Elect’s Pick for HUD Secretary
Congressperson Marcia Fudge of Ohio is President-Elect Joe Biden’s pick for HUD Secretary. Housing advocates in Ohio report that Fudge has been a consistent ally and supporter of affordable housing. Reportedly Fudge was being considered for Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture which would be notable from a racial equity perspective because of work Fudge has done with Black farmers. However, Biden instead announced that he will nominate former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to resume the USDA position. Thus, some advocates and political pundits are viewing the selection of Fudge to head up HUD as a “consolation prize” of sorts. Here are some links to additional reaction and reporting on the selection of Fudge as HUD Secretary:
National Innovation Service (NIS) – Framework for an Equitable COVID-19 Homelessness Response
HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) – Duplication of Benefits Quick Guide for Community Development Block Grant-Coronavirus (CDBG-CV)
National Low Income Housing Coalition & University of Arizona: Innovation for Justice – COVID-19 EVICTIONS
Frank Muraca, UNC School of Government, Development Finance Institute – How Buy-to-Rent Investors Are Changing North Carolina Neighborhoods
SchoolHouse Connections & University of Michigan Poverty Solutions – Across the US, fewer students are being identified as homeless