National CAPACD Urges Senate to Act Swiftly for Renters

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the next coronavirus relief bill, the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES)” Act. The bill includes several provisions to provide relief and stabilize housing for struggling renters, including provisions from the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act. National CAPACD applauds efforts to protect renters hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and urges the Senate to move expediently and expand these provisions to be inclusive of all low-income renters.

Prior to the pandemic, rental housing in most US metropolitan areas was characterized by rapidly rising rents and the net loss of affordable housing. The coronavirus has alarmingly exacerbated an already dire housing crisis. As of May 1, there were 26 metropolitan areas with over 5,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. These metropolitan areas represent some of the highest cost rental markets in the US, with over 50 million people who live in rental housing. Millions of people who have lost their jobs or income can no longer pay rent and fear the threat of eviction. Delays in providing relief to renters is unconscionable; those already struggling in these deeply uncertain times should not be further burdened by housing insecurity. Furthermore, housing, public health, and the economy are inextricably connected – millions of renters losing their homes at this time constitutes a public health and economic disaster.

Supporting renters is a racial justice issue. The majority, or 53 percent, of households headed by people of color are renters, while only 28 percent of non-Hispanic white households are renters. The vast majority (73 percent) of low-income Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) live in the highest cost cities – many of which are also coronavirus hotspots. We are already witnesses to the racial disparities in the impact of the coronavirus on the lives of Americans – our leadership has the opportunity to relieve some of the dramatically disproportionate burden on communities of color in this moment.

National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani states “If relief and recovery are to be effective, the benefits need to reach all renters, with particular sensitivity to those who are most vulnerable. Many of our city’s residents have been forced to live in informal or overcrowded conditions due to the extreme housing cost burden. Meaningful long-term solutions should include rent relief for everyone who needs it and long-term solutions for those in our society who are most at risk of homelessness. This means provisions that address structural racial disparities in the recovery planning, including the allocation of significant resources for nonprofit affordable housing developers and owners in order to preserve and expand the stock of high-quality affordable housing across our cities and communities.”

The Senate must act without delay for renters. National CAPACD hopes that they will adopt provisions that provide assistance and protections to all renters in need of support in this crisis, including immigrants, communities of color, and LEP populations. Our leadership must ensure the economic stability of the people that they are in place to protect, and we would be remiss if we did not remind them of this responsibility as millions of renters across the country look toward June 1st with concern and uncertainty.