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Trump Executive Order Doesn’t Extend Eviction Ban, Won’t Help the Millions Struggling to Pay Rent

August 11, 2020 at 9:30 AM

Despite the President’s claims, his executive order (EO) does not extend the expired federal ban on evictions or provide more funds to tenants or landlords to cover lost rent payments. In fact, the EO doesn’t do anything that would immediately help people pay their rent and avoid evictions — though Administration officials are recklessly claiming that renters are now protected from evictions. That must be particularly concerning for the likely millions of people struggling to pay rent in August.

The EO claims to help renters who have suffered income or job loss due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic recession. The EO, however, merely asks federal agencies to “consider” and “review” if measures to halt evictions are needed; it does not specify what actions agencies can take to halt them. It also directs the Housing and Urban Development and Treasury departments to identify available funds to provide rent relief, singling out landlords, affordable housing developers, public housing authorities, and federal grant recipients for assistance. But without congressionally approved funding, it’s unclear what funds they can redistribute to protect these recipients, let alone renters.

Some 21 percent of all adult renters were behind on their rent in July, the most recent data show. That’s before the eviction moratorium and enhanced unemployment benefits, enacted under the CARES Act of March, expired. Without these protections, a wave of evictions may be imminent, experts fear.

The nation faces serious rental housing problems that this executive order doesn’t solve. Instead, policymakers should take a comprehensive approach to address them adequately. Such an approach would include:

  • Housing vouchers to provide long-term housing stability. State and local housing agencies are well positioned to identify individuals and families facing the greatest risks of eviction or homelessness and to provide them with rental vouchers that will help them to remain stably housed for the long term. These agencies can provide emergency housing vouchers to 500,000 at-risk households over the next year, at a five-year cost of about $26 billion. (The House-passed Heroes Act includes $1 billion for this purpose, and both House and Senate legislation, H.R. 7084 and S. 4164, would provide $10 billion.)
  • Homelessness assistance. State and local agencies need more funds to expand safe, non-congregate shelter options for people experiencing homelessness, revamp their facilities to prevent the spread of the virus, and provide services to help people remain housed and avoid homelessness. The CARES Act provides $4 billion for these purposes, but analysts have concluded that an additional $11.5 billion will be needed to expand these efforts during the pandemic.
  • Eviction prevention. Policymakers should extend the federal eviction moratorium while also providing help paying past, current, and future rent. They should provide significant funding through the Emergency Solutions Grant program for short- and medium-term rental assistance to help people stay in their homes, avoid accumulating housing-related debt (without leaving landlords responsible for unpaid rent), and avoid evictions when federal, state, and local moratoriums expire.
  • Supplemental funding for rental assistance programs. Income losses among currently assisted households are raising subsidy costs, and many housing agencies will have to cut the number of households they assist if they don’t get more funding to cover these costs. We estimate the need for at least $1 billion to address shortfalls in the Housing Choice Voucher program, along with additional funds for public housing and other programs.
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