Around the State
General Assembly Update
The General Assembly’s Short Session technically remains in session. However, minimal business is occurring with skeletal hearings and non-voting meetings. The main purpose of keeping the session open is to attempt to override bill vetoes by Governor Roy Cooper. Once the deadline for Gov. Cooper to veto bills is past, the Short Session will officially conclude and members will go home until September. Thus, House Bill 1200, the bill to direct $200 M in federal CARES Act money to mortgage, rental & utility assistance, remains stalled.
There remains about $800 million in CARES Act funds that the General Assembly has yet to appropriate. There is some talk of legislators wanting to wait and see if the Treasury department will issue guidance that allows federal CARES Act money to be used for budget holes that have resulted from the economic disruption and revenue shortfalls. The Coalition will be meeting with other stakeholders to strategize and coordinate activities to ensure HB 1200’s passage or inclusion in further CARES Act appropriations. While this assistance may be too late for many, there are other moves that the state can take right now to provide some measure of relief. See today’s blog for an update on CDBG-CV funds.
Coming Wave of Utility Disconnections
Last week, Elizabeth City’s municipal water & electricity entity was granted a waiver from Executive Order #124 and its extension (E.O. #142) which prohibits utility companies from disconnecting customer’s services due to nonpayment in light of the sharp unemployment and reduced wages faced by many households. Officials from Elizabeth City argued that the city would become insolvent if they are unable to begin disconnections and collections of delinquent payments. The move raises concerns about adding to already unstable housing situations. Utility advocates are concerned that additional cities will request waivers. Additionally, this week Governor Cooper has indicated that the moratorium will likely not continue due to the unintended burden it has placed on municipal utility companies like Elizabeth City.
For some households, the utility shutoff moratorium enabled them to meet their rental or mortgage payment obligations. With this protection removed, more households may be facing eviction or having to make difficult decisions between paying for utilities, food, healthcare, and other basic needs. Moves such as this, highlight the need for providing urgent housing and utility assistance. The basic human needs for shelter of individual North Carolinians must be addressed. Allowing utility shutoffs to start, simply shifts the hardship to individuals for whom the hardship will take the form of being unable to pay rent and forgoing housing, food, or access to heating, cooking, and sanitation.
Moving Forward Act Passes the House
In Congress, the House passed the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), a sweeping $1.5 trillion infrastructure spending package that contains many of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) reforms that are a part of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act. The LIHTC-related provisions include making permanent the 4% credit rate, reduction to the 50% test, and deadline extensions needed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill also created a new Neighborhood Reinvestment Tax Credit to encourage the purchase and rehabilitation of vacant single family homes in blighted areas. The guest on this week’s Housing Call, Emily Cadik of the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, elaborated on the details of the bill and its next movements. A recording can be listened to here.
Draft HUD Appropriations Bill Release
Yesterday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee released a draft Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (T-HUD) funding bill. The bill will be considered in subcommittee today, July 8th. The legislation would authorize $50.6 billion for HUD for FY21, which marks an increase of $1.5 billion above the FY20 enacted level and $13.3 billion above President Trump’s 2021 budget request. This includes providing: $3.5 billion for the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program, an increase of $100 million above the FY20 enacted level; $1.7 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership program, an increase of $350 million above the FY20 enacted level; and $45 million for the Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing program, an increase of $9 million above the FY20 enacted level. The legislation also includes a separate supplemental infrastructure section to “strengthen and make more resilient our nation’s aging infrastructure” amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. In this section of the bill, the CDBG program receives an additional $4 billion, the HOME program receives an additional $17.5 billion to remain available until the fall of 2024, and the Section 4 program receives an additional $40 million. Also included in this section is $750 million for capital improvements for properties receiving Project-Based Rental Assistance.
Additional COVID-19 Relief Remains Stalled
The next package of COVID-19 relief from the federal government remains stalled in Congress. The Senate is on a break until late July. In the meantime, Senate Republicans have reportedly begun work on a Senate relief package in response to the HEROES Act ($3.5 trillion in relief) that has already been passed by the House. National advocates continue to urge people to contact Republican Senators, such as NC’s Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Thom Tillis, about the need to provide additional emergency housing assistance.
HUD Officially Proposes Anti-Transgender Rule Change
Last week, HUD officially announced its proposed rule modifications to weaken protections prohibiting housing discrimination against transgender and LGBTQ peoples. The change allows individual shelters to make decisions of whether or not to provide services and shelter to individuals based on their gender identity and biological sex. Visit this website to be alerted to the opening of the public comment period.
Children’s Defense Fund – “Housing Is a Racial Justice Crisis: Solutions for Children and Families During COVID and Beyond”
Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy – “Moratorium on Evictions During COVID-19 Protects Vulnerable Children”
U.S. Government Accountability Office – “Rental Housing: As More Households Rent, the Poorest Face Affordability and Housing Quality Challenges”
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – Connections between income, race and COVID-19 Cases