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Policy Update 5-15-20

Around the State

General Assembly Update
Although they are currently on a short recess, the General Assembly is still in session and committees continue to work (virtually and with social distancing). Legislators will return in full on May 18th. Negotiations are underway on bills, to be filed early next week, that would direct federal funds North Carolina will receive from the CARES Act to provide support for renters and homeowners during the on-going pandemic. The bills being drafted by legislators are considering the following: 

  1. Creating a new program to provide emergency assistance with rent, mortgage and/or utility payments and
  2. Re-starting NC’s foreclosure prevention infrastructure (see NCHFA’s now shuttered Foreclosure Prevention Fund)

The Coalition is working with legislators on those bills to ensure that whatever programs are created or enacted will help those facing housing instability right now. The Coalition is also advocating for resources to support housing counselors, the on-the-ground folks who are the front lines for helping individuals with housing and financial situations. 

While it will be useful to have state funding to assist with payments, it is also necessary to make sure that housing counselors have the support they need as people face the longer-term effects of the current economic downturn surface. 

In addition to addressing urgent housing needs, it is crucial that the state continue to invest in the production and preservation of affordable housing. The Coalition is also urging legislators to provide needed funding to the Workforce Housing Loan Program (WHLP) and the state’s Housing Trust Fund. The potential impacts from the absence of WHLP funds in the 2020 Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) cycle were examined in a previous blog post.

In addition to COVID-19 related bills, the House is expected to work on a budget proposal with minimal expenditures. Legislators will also continue with “regular” business typical of the Short Session which is expected to last for a few weeks. 

Before the General Assembly returns on May 18th, please contact your state senators and representatives to urge them to include provisions for emergency payment assistance and to re-start the state’s foreclosure prevention infrastructure. Contact information can be found here.

All of the Coalition’s recommendations for COVID-19 housing policy responses can be found here.

Allocation Amounts of Tranche #2 of CDBG-CV Announced
On the evening of Friday May 8th, HUD released the allocation amounts for the 2nd tranche – $1 billion – of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the CARES Act. North Carolina will receive $28.2 million directly to the state. The amounts for the next round of Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) from the CARES Act were also announced and NC’s share will be approximately $18 million. These funds are again intended to be used to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus” by targeting public health needs with housing and economic disruptions.

The formulas used to determine these amounts vary from the regular formulas HUD uses in that public health data was also factored into the equation. The specific data points used by HUD were the following: 

  • Count of low-income elderly persons
  • Count of children in poverty
  • Aggregate count of unemployment insurance claims through April 25, 2020
  • Per capita rate of confirmed coronavirus cases as of May 3, 2020

A more detailed explanation of the methodology can be found here. The Coalition has prepared fact sheets on the use of CDBG-CV for rental assistance. They can be found here.

Raleigh Bond Update
The City continues work on devising a proposed affordable housing bond to appear on the November ballot. The Affordable Housing Bond Advisory Committee is expected to make its final recommendations to City Council on Tuesday, May 19th. The Committee has been meeting regularly and gathering input from community members and other stakeholders. Information on the bond and the committee’s meeting notes can be found on a website created for housing bond resources.

Op-Ed on COVID-19 Housing Impacts from Rep. David Price and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)
North Carolina Congressman David Price and Rep. Nita Lowey of New York recently penned an opinion piece appearing on WRAL’s website on the impact coronavirus is having on the housing pressures across the country. In the piece they argue that the “coronavirus crisis is only making America’s pre existing housing crisis worse.” The Congresspersons also make the case for rental and mortgage assistance, particularly for those who thus far not protected under announced guidelines. The article can be read here.

On Monday afternoon, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) unveiled the House Democrats proposal for the next COVID-19 relief package. The most recently enacted relief package focused primarily on small business and healthcare and did not include any additional housing resources. This new proposal, the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act”, (not yet numbered) does include housing resources amongst the $3 trillion in aid. Most notably the following provisions for housing are included:

  • The “Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act” (S.3685, H.R. 6820) to provide $100 billion in emergency rental assistance to help keep renters stably housed,
  • $11.5 billion in additional Emergency Solutions Grants to prevent and respond to outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness,
  • A national, uniform moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.

Rural housing providers and stakeholders will be pleased to know that this latest proposal does include resources for USDA Rural Housing programs, including funds for rental assistance. Previous legislation has neglected to include this segment of housing needs. In addition the relief package would provide an additional stimulus payment to individuals, assistance to local and state government, and forgiveness of student debt.

The House is expected to vote on this package Friday afternoon. In the Senate, there is little expectation that package will pass, as-is. House Democrats are pushing the bill forward with the hopes that Senate leadership and the White House will begin negotiations on an additional relief package. Thus far, Senate leadership has indicated that they do not view additional relief as a priority. 

While the package is not likely to pass, it remains vital to communicate to NC’s Congressional delegation that housing is a priority in addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Contact information for Congressional members can be found here.

Reports & Resources

National Low-Income Housing Coalition – Getting to Yes: Working with FEMA to Fund Non-Congregate Shelter

National Housing Law Project (NHLP) – Tenant Rights of Domestic Violence Survivors During COVID-19

National Low Income Housing Coalition, Livestream Event 5/21 @ 2:30-3:30 PM – “Racial Equity During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) – “Racial Disparities on Full Display”

Federal Housing Finance Administration – Tools for Renters to Determine if Federal Moratorium Apply:

Freddie Mac’s Rental Lookup Tool

Fannie Mae’s Rental Lookup Tool

Recommended read

Housing Call: May 12, 2020

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