Housing experts fear that a wave of evictions will become the next COVID-19 crisis and, while the President on August 8 issued an “Executive Order on Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners,” experts believe that the order will do nothing to help renters and homeowners during this economic and public health crisis.
The National Housing Law Project warns that the public needs to understand that the order will not expand protections that were provided under the CARES Act, which bars evictions from moving forward and provides emergency rental assistance funding. Landlords, courts, public housing authorities, and other entities can still seek to evict tenants.
“Trump’s executive order does nothing to help the 30 to 40 million people who could become homeless by the end of the year and in fact creates confusion for renters and homeowners alike,” said Deborah Thrope, NHLP Deputy Director.
She explained, “The order outrageously asks HUD to look under the couch cushions to solve a massive housing crisis. Instead, the Administration should act today to ban evictions at all federally-assisted properties and programs. In addition, Senate Republicans must stop blocking the HEROES Act, which creates a universal eviction moratorium and supports landlords with $100 billion in rental assistance.”
According to NHLP’s analysis, the order provides no directives to federal agencies. “It simply requires that HUD ‘promote’ eviction prevention related to COVID financial hardships. Actions may include encouraging housing providers to minimize evictions and foreclosures,” they write.
Therefore, they argue, “This executive order will not protect tenants and homeowners from eviction, absent any existing state or local laws. The EO dangerously creates confusion for families across the country who are already struggling to understand the patchwork of laws and protections that may apply to them.”
Similarly, they claim that the order requests the HHS (Health and Human Services) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) “consider” whether halting evictions is reasonably necessary in light of Covid.
In the view of NHLP, “An eviction moratorium is necessary – experts and advocates have been saying so for months. More than 10 million people previously covered by the federal eviction moratorium in the CARES Act lost protections on July 24th, and tens of millions more Americans in private rental markets are vulnerable to evictions as the economic devastation of the pandemic wreaks havoc. Families need help paying rent right now and these actions are not likely to lead to immediate assistance.”
Nor are there any enforceable rights.
They argue: “Administrative agencies (including HUD, USDA, VA, Treasury, etc.) have the legal authority to fix this immediately for federally-assisted residents by enacting their own moratoria.”
The order asks the Treasury and HUD (Housing and Urban Development) to identify funds for temporary financial assistance.
However, “PHAs and federally-assisted owners are strapped for cash right now because of increased COVID-related costs; asking them to foot the bill for some type of emergency rental assistance is unrealistic at best.”
Finally, the NHLP questions the legality of the Executive Order itself—“Particularly with respect to private tenancies.”
In their view, what is needed is for the Senate to stop blocking the HEROES Act, which includes an eviction moratorium along with $100 billion in rental assistance for both landlords and tenants.
“Once again, this Administration is late to the table,” they argue.
This executive order asks HHS, CDC, and other agencies to ponder the question “is it necessary to prevent evictions during the pandemic?”
The answer is yes, says NHLP. This is what experts and advocates have been saying it for months. “More than 10 million people previously covered by the federal evictions moratorium in the CARES Act lost protections on July 24th, and tens of millions more Americans in private rental markets are vulnerable to evictions as local and state moratorium expire and the economic devastation of the pandemic continues to wreak havoc.”
NHLP supports “the universal eviction moratorium in the HEROES Act that passed the House on May 15th. The bill also includes $100 billion for rental assistance.”
Taken together, “the universal moratorium and emergency rental assistance are what this country needs to halt the imminent wave of evictions. Further, HUD, USDA, Treasury, and other federal agencies have the authority to issue eviction moratoriums for the housing programs administered by their agencies. We support any efforts to utilize this authority to help renters and homeowners.”
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