Two members of Congress have put forth proposals to help prevent Americans from losing their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-California) introduced the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020 to provide financial assistance to struggling homeowners and renters, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) introduced the Protecting Renters from Evictions and Fees Act of 2020.
In a statement to the House of Representatives, Waters said the nation was facing an affordable housing crisis even before the pandemic, and now “With so many families struggling as a result of the pandemic, we are now on the precipice of an eviction and homelessness crisis like we’ve never seen in our lifetimes.”
As of June only one in three renters was able to pay their full rent, according to Waters. Additionally, close to half of renters were considered housing cost-burdened prior to the pandemic, meaning the spent 30% or more of their income on housing, according to the Urban Institute. Renters are also “more likely to be employed in industries vulnerable to employment shocks,” according to the Institute.
Waters’ bill would expand eviction and foreclosure moratoria, allow for additional forbearance beyond what is stipulated in the CARES Act, and provide housing counseling.
The bill specifies $100 billion for emergency rental assistance and $75 billion for homeowner assistance to help cover rent and mortgage payments as well as utility bills for struggling Americans.
The bill would also allocate $18 billion in aid for the homeless and for federal housing programs.
To help servicers and property owners cover immediate costs while temporarily forgiving payments, the bill would create a lending facility.
Meanwhile, Warren put forth a bill in the Senate that would extend the federal rental eviction moratorium past its current expiration date of July 25.
Warren’s straightforward bill would have the eviction moratorium span for one year from its start date of March 27. The bill would also prevent landlords from charging “fees, penalties or other charges to the tenant related to such nonpayment.”
“Renters who have lost their job or had their income reduced shouldn’t have to fear losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic,” Warren reportedly told Vox. “Housing is a human right and an absolute necessity to keep families safe during this crisis, and Congress must step in now to help keep people in their homes.”
Waters also noted during her statement that her bill is essentially an excerpt from the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, which passed the House but is unlikely to pass the Senate. The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion stimulus plan for the broader economy that included additional cash stimulus, expanded unemployment benefits, as well as expanded assistance for homelessness, renters, and homeowners.
Since it is unlikely to pass, Waters created her Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act to specifically address housing concerns during the pandemic.