Around the State
NC General Assembly Passes COVID-19 Relief – Neglects Housing Need
Last Thursday (9/3) the North Carolina General Assembly passed a $904 million relief bill (HB 1105) allocating the state’s remaining federal COVID-19 relief funds. The bill provides funds for a variety of measures, however, housing and utility assistance are excluded. The Coalition and other stakeholders had been working to get the provisions of House Bill 1200 ($200 million for Foreclosure Prevention/Rental & Utility Assistance) into the relief package. Lawmakers opted however to exclude housing resources, with many during floor debates citing the Governor’s announcement the week prior to roll out $175 million for housing related needs.
HB 1105 passed House Appropriations and the Senate on September 2nd. On September 3rd, the full House voted and passed the bill with 104 in favor and 10 opposed. The bill has now been signed by Governor Cooper and goes into effect.
The General Assembly has adjourned sine die (without assigning further meetings) and is not expected until the next legislative session in January 2021. The only reason they could return at this point would be in the event that North Carolina receives additional federal pandemic relief funds.
So with the pandemic and economic crisis continuing on, North Carolina’s primary source of housing relief are those announced by Governor Cooper and a patchwork of local programs primarily funded by CARES Act resources. Two weeks ago Governor Cooper announced that $94 million in CDBG-CV funds will be administered by the NC Office of Recovery & Resiliency (NCORR) to provide rental and utility assistance across the state. $53 million in ESG-CV funds would be administered by NC Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS) to provide emergency crisis support to people experiencing homelessness or in immediate risk. With the remaining $28 million going to the NC Department of Commerce for traditional CDBG activities, although they are encouraged to provide rental and utility assistance. These programs do not include resources for mortgage payment assistance, housing counseling, or legal services.
Between these events and the CDC eviction moratorium, more resources are needed. While the moves made by the Governor’s office and the CDC moratorium will undoubtedly help thousands of people remain housed, many more will not be able to qualify for the state programs and we risk losing a large swath of rental housing units without further rental, utility, and mortgage assistance.
It is imperative that Congress pass additional relief measures, such as the $100 billion for rental assistance that is included in the HEROES Act. Please contact your House members and Senators Burr and Tillis to urge them to support additional relief for housing in North Carolina. Go here to find NC’s delegation.
NC Pandemic Recovery Office Hosts Housing Listening Session with NCORR
Last week, the NC Pandemic Recovery Office (NCPRO) hosted a listening session with the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR) to learn about the effects the pandemic is having on housing issues. The listening session, conducted at the direction of the Governor’s office, invited members of the Housing RSF (disaster Recovery Support Function) task force to engage in small group discussion with NCPRO staff. Presumably the information gathered will be used to inform further policy and programmatic action by NCPRO and the state’s executive branch.
CDC Announces Historic Eviction Moratorium
Last week (9/1), the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) announced an order that temporarily halts residential evictions nationwide from September 4th, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
The order is meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by linking broad public health and COVID-19 risk to access to housing. Preventing evictions reduces potential COVID-19 exposure by keeping people housed, out of shelters, and away from other overcrowded living situations (such as families doubling up in one apartment) where avoiding shared spaces/objects and social distancing are difficult to maintain.
All residential rental properties in the United States and its territories, including privately held and unsubsidized housing, are covered by the order.
Tenants will need to take a proactive step to qualify for “coverage” by providing their landlords/property managers with a signed declaration that they meet five eligibility criteria and conditions below:
- Are expecting an annual income in 2020 of less than $99,000 OR were not required to file a 2019 tax return OR received an Economic Impact Payment pursuant to the CARES Act (“stimulus check”).
- Are unable to pay rent due to substantial income loss, lay-offs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.
- Have made “best efforts” to obtain all available government assistance.
- Will continue to make “best efforts” to submit timely partial payments
- If evicted, they would become homeless, need to move into shelter, or move into other congregate-style living quarters because they have “no other available housing options.”
The CDC order does not eliminate the obligation to pay rent and does not prevent the application of additional fees, penalties, or late charges. According to the order, landlords who do not adhere to the restrictions may face criminal charges.
Many questions of legality, implementation, and enforcement abound. The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts has yet to announce any additional guidance for courthouses and the general public on CDC order’s use in the state. As of September 10th, one lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Rick Brown v. Secretary Alex Azar, et al. alleges that the CDC does not have the authority to implement such a moratorium and that the order violates the plaintiff’s (a landlord in Virginia) rights to access due process in the courts. National advocates expect additional lawsuits across the country.
At this moment, tenant advocates stress that who may be struggling to make rent payments and believe they meet the eligibility criteria should complete and submit the required declaration form as soon as possible, in the event that legal proceedings halt or alter the moratorium.
While the order will undoubtedly help keep thousands of North Carolinians in their homes during the pandemic which shows no signs of ending before 2021, the measure is merely a bandage on a national housing crisis. Without additional rental assistance or other supports, the order simply delays devastating evictions, harm to communities, and potential widespread loss of housing stock. It is imperative that the U.S. Congress provides additional pandemic housing relief. For more details, please see the above article on the NCGA, today’s blog post and the latest Housing Minute video.
For further details on the order please see the following resources:
CDC Order Halting Evictions – Text of Order
Update on Congressional COVID-19 Relief Possibilities
The U.S. Senate returned to Washington D.C. this week. Senate Majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced a proposed “skinny” relief bill that provides $500 billion in resources, a reduction from the Senate’s previous relief proposal of $1 trillion (HEALS Act). The skinny bill does not include any provisions for housing related resources. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week. However, it currently does not appear that McConnell has the necessary 60 votes to pass the bill. Meanwhile, the House will return to D.C. next week.
Additionally, both parties have agreed to exclude relief measures from any Continuing Resolution bills that are necessary to keep the federal government funded and operating. In an effort to encourage compromise, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said that House democrats are reducing their relief ask from the $3 trillion in the HEROES Act to a little over $2 trillion. However, with the introduction of the skinny bill and how far apart each side remains, it appears that possible agreement on a relief package is diminishing.
With recent events here in NC, Congress is the remaining mechanism by which desperately needed housing assistance can be provided. Please contact NC’s Congressional delegation to demand that housing resources, particularly rental assistance, be provided now. Housing relief cannot wait and is needed now.
HUD Disparate Impact Rule Changes Set to Take Effect
Last Friday afternoon, the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) announced that the final version of changes to the Disparate Impact rule are approved for publishing in the Federal Register. The proposed changes effectively weaken the Fair Housing Act and make it more difficult for people to challenge discriminatory practices in housing. The changes go into effect within 30 days of their publication in the Federal Register, which is expected to occur in the coming weeks. The changes have been criticized widely as drastically weakening the Fair Housing Act by effectively gutting civil rights protections and enforcement against discriminatory practices. For more information, please visit today’s blog.
Reports, Resources, & Events
NLIHC Our Homes, Our Votes 2020 – Join the Housing Providers Council by signing on today
- NLIHC will provide support & materials to engage residents in voting activities
Washington University St Louis – 5 months of COVID-19: What needs are trending?
NC 2-1-1 Data: https://nc.211counts.org/
National Housing Law Project: Stopping COVID-19 Evictions Survey Results
Bloomberg News – The Rise of Work-from-Home Towns