July 26, 2021
The National Coalition for Housing Justice (NCHJ) is aligned behind seeking housing justice in order to end homelessness. The ten national organizations that make up the NCHJ represent advocates and leaders in national efforts to end homelessness. Today the coalition released the following statement:
At the end of this week, on July 31, 2021, the federal government’s eviction moratorium will end and millions of low-income households will be at risk of eviction, housing instability and homelessness. Every level of government has a responsibility to take every action necessary to prevent this crisis.
The Biden administration must immediately:
- Extend and strengthen the CDC eviction moratorium to keep renters safely and stably housed through the end of the pandemic.
- Ensure all federal agencies and working across silos to raise awareness of emergency rental assistance among low-income households.
- Issue additional guidance to reduce barriers in the Emergency Rental Assistance program to ensure resources reach households in need quickly and effectively.
- Extend FEMA resources, and provide needed guidance, to help communities house people experiencing homelessness into non-congregate shelter.
Congress must fix the gaps in our housing safety net by enacting long-term solutions to America’s housing and homelessness crisis:
- Ensure rental assistance is universally available to every eligible household, including those with the lowest incomes and those most marginalized;
- Build and preserve homes affordable to people with the lowest incomes;
- Create new tools to stabilize households during a crisis; and
- Strengthen renter protections.
State and local governments must keep renters stably housing during the pandemic:
- Create or extend eviction moratoriums to keep renters stably housed while state and local governments distribute aid to those in need.
- Improve emergency rental assistance programs by reducing barriers that prevent the lowest-income and most marginalized households from receiving assistance and increase awareness of resources in communities most impacted by COVID-19 and at risk of eviction.
- Work with court systems to prevent evictions whenever possible through eviction diversion programs focused on increasing housing stability.
- Enact renter protections that address the power imbalance between renters and landlords that make renters vulnerable to housing instability.
- Stop all efforts to criminalize homelessness, and instead, focus on providing permanent housing solutions with services, as needed.
Courts must provide robust measures to remedy the power differential between tenants and landlords.
- Implement robust eviction diversion programs.
- Review and implement guidance issued by the Department of Justice on eviction prevention.
- Halt evictions until ERA funds have been fully expended in your community.
- Seal the records of eviction proceedings, except under certain circumstances.
Urgent action is needed to prevent a tsunami of evictions with catastrophic human and economic cost.
- According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 6 million renter households are currently behind on their rent, and are at immediate risk of eviction when the federal eviction moratorium ends.
- State and local governments have only spent $3 billion of the $46 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance enacted by Congress, meaning that millions of renters will unnecessarily face preventable eviction starting next week.
- Evictions and homelessness comes at a tremendous cost to individuals and communities. Evictions push households deeper into poverty and have long-term, negative consequences for mental and physical health, education outcomes, and economic mobility. Prevention is cheaper and, in this case, there are already federal funds available.
- COVID-19 cases and the Delta variant are increasing, particularly among the unvaccinated population, and research shows that the households at risk of eviction at the end of the moratorium are disproportionately likely to be unvaccinated. Forcing families into shared housing or congregate shelters will speed the spread of the disease, resulting in completely preventable illness, hospitalization, and death.
- Housing instability, homelessness, and the economic and public health hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic ALL are experienced disproportionately by Black and Indigenous people as well as other people of color. Failing to act will be catastrophic to ongoing efforts to dismantle systems of racism and white supremacy.
This crisis was foreseeable and preventable and must not be allowed to happen again.
All of the above actions are urgent and important. However, they are band-aids that will not address the underlying challenges related to affordable housing. The federal Government must fix the broken housing safety net by: preserving existing housing supply including public housing, supporting the development of new homes affordable to people with the lowest incomes and those who are most marginalized , implementing universal housing vouchers as an entitlement, and establishing and enforcing strong renter protections.