Housing Proposals for COVID Relief Come Into Focus

Legislation | May 08, 2020 | by Linda Couch

With the House on the cusp of returning to D.C., work on the affordable housing aspects of the next COVID-19 is coming into some focus.

With the House on the cusp of returning to D.C., work on the affordable housing aspects of the next COVID-19 is coming into some focus.

As LeadingAge members have heard, LeadingAge is focused on a $1.2 billion package of funding for COVID-related expenses, Service Coordinators, and the installation and service fees for wireless internet in affordable senior housing communities. LeadingAge is working with House and Senate offices on bills to be introduced in those chambers and will share additional news as it becomes available. LeadingAge continues to ask affordable senior stakeholders to reach out to their representatives and senators in support of this $1.2 billion affordable senior housing support package.

On May 8, House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Representative Denny Heck (D-WA) announced the introduction of the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020, which would create a $100 billion emergency rental assistance fund. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is introducing the Senate version of the bill. The bill would use a COVID-19-version of HUD’s Emergency Solutions Grant program bill to provide rental assistance to households for up to 24 months. The resources can also be used to pay for up to six months of rent arrears, which would be extremely helpful to renters currently under an eviction moratorium but who are amassing rent bills that will come due after the end of the current 120-day moratorium for millions of covered renter households. Renters would apply for assistance with the agency or organization that the state or local grantee has selected to administer the program. Property owners would not be able to directly apply for rental assistance under the program, but once a renter qualifies for assistance, the administering agency would send the payment directly to the landlord. The renter, their landlord, and the administering agency would sign a rental assistance agreement stipulating the terms of the assistance. The funds would serve households with low incomes (incomes below 80% of area median income), but the HUD Secretary would have the discretion, under certain circumstances, to allow use of funds for households with incomes up to 120% of area median. LeadingAge has endorsed the House and Senate bills.

On May 7, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) announced the introduction of a bill to authorize and fund a $75 billion Housing Assistance Fund that would provide flexible resources to help homeowners and renters struggling due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic remain in their homes. The funds would be administered via state housing finance agencies. The program is modeled after the Hardest Hit Fund, established by Congress in response to the 2009 foreclosure crisis. House companion legislation is expected soon from Representative David Scott (D-GA).

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pulls together her leadership package of priorities, she is also expected to include proposals to expand the Housing Choice Voucher program by 200,000 vouches, by far the largest expansion of the voucher program in decades. Public housing authorities are also working to secure additional administrative fees for the voucher program as well as additional public housing operating subsidies.