Around the State
Update on HOPE Program
As North Carolina experiences a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization, the threat of evictions and the need for rental assistance persists. Here are some recent statistics on the HOPE Program and the utilization of emergency rental and utility assistance across the state. Since last week the current round of the HOPE Program, funded by the December 2020 Omnibus relief package or “ERA 2” has seen the following :
- Over 62,000 applications at about 1000-2000 applicants per day
- Approximately $200 million in assistance committed
- Over $100 million in payments disbursed
- Current processing time = 14-18 days from application submitted to payment
- Since the CDC eviction moratorium ended & was reinstate, over 9000 calls per day
In order to ensure those who need assistance are able to access it and that evictions are able to be prevented, NCORR has made some recent changes to improve utilization of the program. The most notable is the creation of an intake portal/process allowing landlords to initiate HOPE program staff to directly outreach to tenants that may be eligible for assistance. While the tenant must still connect with HOPE staff, providing case management staff with direct lines of contact to both parties should greatly improve the speed and efficiency.
In addition, the HOPE Program increased the monthly rent award limit by 30%, which will allow the program to cover approximately 95% of all rent awards requested by tenants. The utility assistance limit has also been increased by 100% which will enable the HOPE program to cover about 90% of past due utility requests.
NCORR staff have also conducted training with over 180 court clerks across the state in partnership with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to educate court staff about the HOPE Program and availability of rental assistance. The training also clarified for clerks that providing information about the HOPE Program to landlords and tenants does not constitute legal guidance or advocacy on their part. This move should prevent more people from falling through the cracks because they were unaware of the program.
To apply for assistance or obtain more information, see the following links and resources:
By Phone: 888-9ASK-HOPE or 888-927-5467
State Budget Progress Continues in the House
Yesterday the North Carolina House of Representatives unveiled their budget proposal for the fiscal years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. The House version sees an increase to the Workforce Housing Loan Program from $40 million as proposed by the Senate to $200 million. Using ARP funds, the increase to WHLP is intended to allow NCHFA to offer gap funding to LIHTC developments facing significant budget shortfalls due to dramatic cost increases resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds for Habitat for Humanity, infrastructure related to affordable housing, and Rapid Rehousing are also included in the House budget. For more details, see today’s blog.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced on August 3rd that they would issue a limited eviction moratorium – starting August 3rd through October 3 – for renters living in communities experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases.
This bold move led by the Biden administration in this moment of crisis will protect lives, and the new eviction moratorium is a major victory for renters and their allies.
The announcement would not have been possible without the extraordinary dedication and tireless work of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA), Representatives Cori Bush (D-MO), and other congressional champions, and of thousands of housing and homelessness advocates, including NLIHC’s partners and allies across the country. After the Biden administration stated on July 29 that it would not extend the federal eviction moratorium, Speaker Pelosi and Chair Waters led a fierce effort to enact legislation to extend the moratorium, but the measure failed to garner the support necessary. Since that time they and others, especially members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, kept up their demand that the Biden administration use every authority to extend the protection for renters.
The announcement comes one day after the Biden administration announced additional steps it will take to protect renters and prevent evictions during the pandemic.
The new eviction moratorium provides immediate relief for the 6.5 million renter households who are currently behind on their rent and who were at an increased risk of eviction when the federal eviction moratorium expired on July 31. Recent research estimates that up to 80% of households behind on rent and at risk of eviction live in communities with over 100% COVID-19 case growth rates in July. The new moratorium will help keep renters safely and stably housed, and it will provide state and local governments more time to distribute emergency rental assistance (ERA) to households in need.
The new moratorium:
- Covers all renters living in communities experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, an estimated 90% of all renters; and
- Protects renters for up to two months, through October 3.
Because the moratorium is not retroactive and will not protect those renters who have already been evicted from their homes, it is critical that state and local governments quickly prioritize ERA to rehouse these individuals and families to prevent homelessness.
Budget Resolution Moves Forward – $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Package Including Housing Funds
The U.S. Senate voted 50-49 early this morning to approve a budget resolution that sets the stage for a $3.5 trillion infrastructure and economic recovery package, including investments up to $332 billion for housing and transportation. We haven’t been this close to major investments in affordable housing in a generation!
While the House of Representatives is slated to return to Washington on August 23 to vote on the budget resolution, the Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee are already starting to draft legislation to divide up these funds among various housing and transportation programs.
The time is now to ensure that this infrastructure package contains resources for housing programs, including expanding rental assistance, providing $70 billion to preserve public housing, and investing $45 billion in the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF). Together, these resources will help ensure that America’s lowest-income and most marginalized households have safe, accessible, and affordable homes.
During the August recess, please reach out to NC’s delegation, urging them to make sure that infrastructure includes housing! Take action here.
Treasury Department Releases Guidance to Streamline Rental Assistance Administration
The U.S. Department of the Treasury on August 4 reiterated its call for state and local governments to speed the distribution of emergency rental assistance (ERA) by removing unnecessary and burdensome documentation requirements. To help communities swiftly improve their ERA programs, Treasury updated its list of promising ERA practices by publishing examples of simplified eligibility forms and an eviction-diversion “maturity model,” as recommended by NLIHC. Treasury announced it is distributing the sample eligibility forms to all ERA program grantees, hosting information sessions, and providing technical support to encourage programs to utilize self-attestation when determining an applicant’s eligibility.
Reports, Resources & Events
National Low Income Housing Coalition – THE ROAD AHEAD FOR LOW INCOME RENTERS?
Urban Institute & University of Colorado at Denver – Housing First Breaks the Homelessness-Jail Cycle
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – Families Wait Years for Housing Vouchers Due to Inadequate Funding
Enterprise Community Partners
Webinar: “How to Harness the Legal System to Prevent Evictions”
Tuesday, August 31 @ 3:30 pm