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On September 1, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) filed an order in the Federal Register to temporarily halt residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The order was formally published on Friday, September 4, 2020 and bars evictions of renters in residential housing until December 31, 2020.
- Applies to virtually all rental housing providers and prohibits any eviction action to remove a renter from their housing during the covered period, so long as the renter provides the required declaration to their housing provider;
- Does not prevent evictions based on the lawful reasons articulated in the order, other than nonpayment of rent;
- Does NOT eliminate the resident’s obligations under the lease, and housing providers may charge late fees or other penalties for nonpayment of rent; and
- States that any person or organization that violates the order may be subject to up to $500,000 in fines per violation and/or jail time. Enhanced penalties apply if the violation resulted in death, at the discretion of the U.S. Department of Justice.
For renters to be eligible for the order’s protections, they must provide a declaration under penalty of perjury to their housing provider indicating the following:
- The individual has used best efforts to obtain rental assistance;
- The individual expects to earn no more than $99,000 (no more than $198,000 when filing jointly); was not required to report income in 2019 to the IRS; or received a stimulus check pursuant to the CARES Act;
- The individual is unable to pay their full rent due to a number of factors that remain unconnected to COVID-19;
- The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments; and
- Eviction would likely render the individual homeless or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting because the individual has no other available housing options.
An example of the declaration can be found in the order, and the CDC has provided the document on the website here. Please note that this form will immediately halt any eviction proceedings, and housing providers are not required to distribute the form to residents.
Jurisdictions that have an eviction moratorium providing the same or greater level of public-health protection than the CDC order are exempt from its requirements.
To help housing providers better understand their rights and responsibilities under the order, NAA, in partnership with the Texas Apartment Association (TAA), has prepared preliminary guidance and FAQs. This guidance is not intended to be state specific and should be used in conjunction with advice from local legal counsel to interpret these requirements in light of existing federal, state and local eviction laws.
NAA and TAA are also sponsoring a free 75-minute webinar, "Understanding the CDC Eviction Moratorium," on Thursday, September 10 at 2 p.m. CDT. The webinar features NAA Senior Vice President, Government Affairs Greg Brown, NAA Vice President, Legal Affairs and Counsel Scot Haislip, NAA Senior Staff Attorney Ayiesha Beverly, NAA Director of Public Policy Nicole Upano, TAA General Counsel Sandy Hoy and Hoover Slovacek Equity Partner Howard Bookstaff, who will provide the latest updates on the CDC Order. Reserve your space now.
There still remain a number of unanswered questions about the Order and how it will be implemented; this is an evolving situation and NAA will provide for updated information as it becomes available. If you have any questions about the CDC order, or COVID-19 in general, please reach out to NAA staff at [email protected].
The National Apartment Association (NAA) recently joined with more than two dozen industry organizations and private firms representing the restaurant, entertainment, hospitality, gaming, retail, communications, broadcasting and real estate sectors to form the Business Continuity Coalition (the Coalition). The goal of the coalition is to work with policymakers and other stakeholders to develop a plan for protecting jobs and mitigating future economic damage from business interruptions resulting from pandemics and other national emergencies. The members of the BCC represent a combined 50 million jobs across the nation.
As the COVID-19 pandemic required broad-based closures and shutdowns, employees and businesses of all sizes have been significantly impacted. The Coalition advocates for a public/private business continuity insurance program modeled after the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act passed following the 9/11 attacks. Such a program would, in the event of a government-ordered shutdown, enable employers to maintain payroll and supply chains to protect jobs and reduce stress on the financial system. Ultimately, this can speed economic recovery when government-imposed limitations on operations are lifted.
On November 3, voters in Portland, Maine approved a referendum that would cap most rent increases in the city and require a series of renter protections. Despite a similar referendum failing resoundingly in 2017 and opposition from Mayor Kate Snyder, seven city councilors, local businesses, affordable housing developers and rental housing providers, the referendum passed with 58 percent support.
The measure, which appeared as Question D on Portland ballots, implements a rent regulation regime similar to those found in New York City, San Francisco and Washington DC, applicable to all units in the city, with few exceptions. Rent increases are limited to the rate of inflation, with additional increases allowed upon vacancy of a rent-controlled unit or to cover growth in property taxes.
A seven-member rent board with no more than three housing provider representatives will decide the fate of petitions for additional increases, such as major capital improvements. Even after increases are approved, additional rules apply. For example, all permitted increases in excess of 10 percent must be banked for use in a subsequent rental year.
The referendum also called for other renter protections, including adding source of income to list of protected characteristics in local fair housing laws and extended notice provisions that would be extremely difficult and burdensome for housing providers to operationalize—a 75-day notice requirement for rent increases with the option to appeal to the rent board and 90-day notice required for the nonrenewal of “tenancies-at-will,” except as otherwise provided below:
- "For Cause" tenancies are terminable on 7 days' notice pursuant to existing statute;
- Short-term rentals with a term of fewer than 30 days' and holdover tenancies are exempt from the 90-day notice period;
- Where a housing provider provides $500.00 reimbursement to the renter for the inconvenience of termination, tenancies-at-will may be terminated by notice to the tenant of sixty (60) to eighty-nine (89) days; or
- Where a housing provider provides $1000 reimbursement to renter for the inconvenience of termination, tenancies-at-will may be terminated by notice to the renter of thirty (30) to fifty-nine (59) days.
While passage of rent regulation policy anywhere in the nation is harmful to the industry, the success of the Portland voter referendum is more of an outlier than a strong predictor of similar legislation passing elsewhere in 2021. In terms of the initiative itself, there were few opportunities for the community to fully understand and debate the measure, which was backed by the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America. It also received little external media focus in comparison to the presidential election and Maine’s senate races.
In a Portland Press Herald article, Brit Vitalius, President of the Southern Maine Landlord Association, highlighted, “It was hard to have substantive discussions about these complex issues in an age of COVID when there were no neighborhood meetings to attend and where the media was consumed by the senate and presidential race…we could feel it in our campaign, just trying to get someone to pay attention.”
There are several other reasons to think the passage of rent regulation in Portland was a one-off situation. Strict rent regulation in California has now been resoundingly defeated twice by large margins at the ballot box (Proposition 10 in 2018, Proposition 21 in 2020), demonstrating that simply getting such a policy onto the ballot does not ensure an increased chance of passage. Moreover, passing rent control through the legislative process is equally, if not more, challenging. Elected officials, even in more progressive states, are weary of overturning state level rent control preemption laws and giving jurisdictions free reign to design and pass their own rent regulation policies. Attempts by renter advocacy groups to do so in consecutive legislative sessions in Illinois, Colorado, and Massachusetts have failed, due in no small part to NAA affiliate advocacy.
The approval of rent control in Portland may have been an aberration, but legislative fights still await the industry in 2021. Rent control is experiencing a resurgence in popularity and continues to be a primary plank in the progressive policy platform. As we highlighted in last month’s Apartment Advocate, these groups are using the economic fallout of the pandemic to support the need to regulate rents through emergency price gouging legislation and renter displacement prevention measures.
Advocates for the rental housing industry continue to refocus the conversation on increased funding of rental assistance programs and other housing policies that balance the needs of renters and housing providers who are struggling due to COVID-19. We must address both supply and demand imbalances and the underlying financial instability of low- to moderate-income renters to improve housing affordability long-term. NAA and its affiliated apartment associations remain committed to advocating for this approach to housing policy and aggressively protecting the interests of the rental housing industry.
Watching the national news, you would never know there were other elections of consequence taking place on November 3. Such is the lot for races that are not national in scope. At best you may have heard an update on one of the eleven gubernatorial races taking place, but often it was merely as a proxy to how the state would turn out for the presidential election. However, as this is a decennial year, the consequences of these state elections have the potential to outlast the full tenure of a president.
Every ten years, the nation updates its population figures as part of the decennial census. This change in population often necessitates an update of all state and federal offices with representative districts, know as a reapportionment. The most notable offices affected include the U.S. House of Representatives, both upper and lower chambers of state legislatures and districts within a county and city.
The reapportionment of districts is implemented by the state. The party in power has the position to exert the most influence this process – thereby making 2020 far more than “just a presidential election year.”
Going into the 2020 general election, Republicans controlled both chambers of 29 state legislatures while Democrats controlled 19. Only one legislature, Minnesota, split the chambers between the parties. When you overlay total state control where one party has both chambers and the governor’s office, aka “Trifecta,” that number changes to 21 states for Republicans and 15 for Democrats. The remaining 13 states divided partisan control between the legislative and executive branches.
At this point in time, it is important to note for the mathematically inclined that the above numbers only add up to 49 states. As an incentive to read the rest of the article, I give the reason at the end. But I digress.
By itself, the opportunity to redraw the district lines that will impact elections for the next decade is enough to warrant a serious campaign. However, couple that with the race to occupy the presidency and you have an election that is guaranteed to drive record turnout and break election spending records.
Entering the election cycle, state Democrats ran dual campaigns that attempted to close the Republican-state advantage, while at the same time influence federal contests. To do this, the chambers of 13 states were identified as targets. These states included Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Election pundits by and large were predicting strong down ballot alignment throughout all the prospective races. Meaning the top of the ticket, in this case the presidential race, would strongly influence what voters did with the rest of their ballot. Also, conventional wisdom of presidential election voting habits suggested there should be state turnover. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, an average of 12 chambers change parties in each general election cycle.
The media’s reporting of strong polling numbers for the Biden campaign, and Democrats overall, led to predictions of a “blue wave,” particularly for state and federal partisan races. This election outlook bolstered expectations for Democratic gains going into November. However, similar to the outcome of the federal races, state races saw Republicans make gains and Democrats hold on to the aggregate number of seats flipped in previous races.
Starting with the least contentious, there were 11 gubernatorial races nationwide. While none of the incumbents were seriously challenged, Republicans won the two open seats in Montana and Utah. These pick-ups were a net gain for Republicans bringing executive control to 27 states compared to the 23 controlled by Democrats.
In state legislatures, Republicans flipped both chambers of the New Hampshire, bringing their total of legislatures to 30 states over the 18 held by Democrats. Minnesota remains the lone state legislature with control split between the parties. This downward trend in chamber turnover is consistent with the last three election cycles dating back to 2016.
Finally, for trifecta control, Republicans enjoy a net gain of two states, bringing their total to 23 with the addition of New Hampshire and Montana. Democrats hold at 15 states, with the remaining 11 states under divided control.
What Does All This Mean?
First and foremost, the threat of down ballot uniformity proved widely exaggerated. Looking at the states that former Vice President Biden won, or was winning – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – the ticket was split with voters giving the state legislature to Republicans. In the case of Minnesota, a state that was heavily targeted by Democrats and elevated due to the civil unrest of the summer, it maintains its split legislature.
For the rental housing industry, we must not fall prey to election-year red state and blue state rhetoric. While much will be written on the polling that guided, or misguided, the messaging used by the campaigns, the postmortem is clear – that it is not as clear cut as the parties make it out to be. Battleground states earn that designation because their moderated views make them open to persuasion. The idea that voters will tow a single brand of messaging will be reassessed. This opportunity for message diversity bodes well for our industry.
Second, the Coronavirus is still king and will continue to drive the narrative of the country – especially in the states. Remember, irrespective of your state’s partisanship, eviction moratoriums were an equal opportunity policy. It is important to note that the governors up for reelection were given high marks for their response to the virus, leaving very little for their opponents to use against them. Also, several states saw their revenues plummet and budget surpluses drop due to the response to the virus. With the expected rise in cases during the winter months, states will once again be put in a position to make tough decisions.
For the rental housing industry, it will again be about advocating for a balanced approach that does not put the entire cost and responsibility of housing the nation on one industry. At the same time, we will need to guard against the activist community’s tactic of using the emergency response to the virus to influence long-term housing policy.
At the end of each election cycle there is always a clear winner. Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the United State House of Representatives, famously said “All Politics is Local.” While he was not on the ballot, his philosophy was and won – proving once again that it doesn’t matter how big the race, the successful ones are waged at the “retail” level. It was true for the state races and it should be true for our industry.
As always, let me know what you think at [email protected].
*Answer: The Nebraska legislature is officially nonpartisan unicameral body.
Biden’s housing priorities are significant, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) certainly will play a critical role. His team has already released the list of agency review advisors who will help to ensure that HUD is prepared to meet the nation’s urgent housing challenges from day one. A number of high-profile names are being floated to lead the agency as well. The National Apartment Association (NAA) has analyzed the records of the HUD advisors named to the transition team and potential secretary picks to predict how the agency’s priorities may change under the Biden Administration and affect the rental housing industry.
At the helm, Erika Poethig, Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer at the Urban Institute, leads the HUD transition team. Poethig, also former Acting HUD Assistant Secretary for Policy, Research, and Development under President Obama, helped establish the White House Council on Strong Cities and Strong Communities. During her tenure at the Urban Institute, Poethig has shown strong support for reducing regulatory barriers, at all levels of government, that prevent the development of affordable housing. Her stance very much aligns with President-Elect Biden’s goal to tie federal funding for municipalities to the elimination of these barriers. Additionally, Poethig has advocated for greater public subsidies to help offset the high cost of new multifamily construction and increase overall housing affordability.
Alongside Poethig, the HUD transition team is heavily weighted with former HUD staff from the Obama Administration and housing advocates from organizations like the Urban Institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the New York University’s Furman Center. While we agree with these organizations in their support of rental assistance, we disagree with their support of rent control, source of income protections for voucher holders, eviction moratoria and other displacement prevention measures for renters affected by COVID-19 that unfairly put the financial burden of the crisis on housing providers. While Biden has not officially lent his support to these policies, his rhetoric during the campaign season and choice of HUD transition advisors would suggest a willingness to consider these ideas as his housing priorities continue to take shape.
Biden’s team has also hinted at potential picks to lead HUD, signaling former Jacksonville, Fla. mayor Alvin Brown as the top candidate. Brown’s consideration comes as a surprise to some Floridians given his quiet housing recording in Jacksonville. His value, according to insiders, comes from the relationships that he has cultivated with top federal and state lawmakers.
Maurice Jones, another Obama-era HUD veteran, is also under strong consideration for the top job. As CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Jones has helped provide private financing for more than 400,000 affordable homes. Jones’ expertise in housing finance would align directly with Biden’s call to direct more than $100 billion to affordable housing development.
Further down Biden’s shortlist for HUD Secretary are California Congresswoman Karen Bass, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Diane Yentel, President & CEO of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). Rep. Bass and Mayor Bottoms bring experience in community activism from two of the nation’s largest cities, Los Angeles and Atlanta, respectively, while
Yentel, also a former HUD staffer under President Obama, is well-known amongst progressive leaders and renters’ rights advocates. Under Yentel’s leadership, the NLIHC outlined a number of policy initiatives that the Biden Administration could pursue to end homelessness and achieve housing justice, including support for:
- Continued extension of the federal eviction moratorium (going a step further to suggest “automatic, universal” eviction protections for renters);
- Funding for legal defense and federal “right to counsel” for renters in eviction courts;
- Federal just cause eviction protections;
- Adding source of income to the list of protected characteristics in the Fair Housing Act;
- Enforcing the 2016 approach to the Fair Housing Act liability rule which holds housing providers accountable for their residents’ discriminatory conduct; and
- Restrictions on resident screening criteria through federal fair housing laws and guidance, including lookback periods on criminal history and limitations on types of history that may be considered.
As the industry anxiously awaits to learn whether the next administration will extend the CDC’s federal eviction moratorium or continue its protections in some other form moving forward, NAA continues its advocacy efforts on behalf of the industry to push for balanced housing policy. Importantly, more work must be done to help rental housing owners and operators affected by COVID-19. NAA stands ready to work with the next Administration and Congress to help tackle the housing challenges our country faces and serve as the leading voice for the rental housing
In 2020, the number of ballot measures decreased slightly as efforts to meet signature thresholds and qualification deadlines were hampered by COVID-19. Moreover, the ongoing pandemic interfered with outreach efforts to educate voters on important issues to varying degrees. Despite these challenges, the presidential election turned out record numbers of voters on November 3, and voters throughout the nation decided the fate of 120 statewide ballot measures and many more at the city and county level. Below is a sampling of those affecting the rental housing industry.
Affordable Housing Investment
- Measure 26-218—a proposed payroll tax on employers with 26 or more employees to fund transportation investments (including a light rail line and rapid bus network as well as improved access to affordable housing near transportation investments)—was defeated by Portland-area voters in Oregon, with 58 percent voting no.
- Boulder, Colorado voters approved ballot issue 2B, “No Eviction Without Representation,” by a margin of 59-41 percent.
- The measure calls for the city to fund:
- Legal defense for renters paid for by increased city taxes and rental registration fees for housing providers in the city;
- Rental assistance for vulnerable renters; and
- A “Tenants’ Committee” to oversee these programs for renters.
- The measure calls for the city to fund:
- Portland, Maine voters approved Question D, “An Act to Protect Tenants,” by a margin of 58-42 percent.
- The referendum will:
- Cap most annual rent increases to the rate of inflation;
- Create a rent board to adjudicate petitions for additional rent increases;
- Require a 75-day notice requirement for rent increases with the option to appeal to the rent board;
- Require 90-days advance notice to vacate; and
- The referendum also calls for “source of income” to be added to the protected categories under the City’s fair housing laws.
- The referendum will:
- Importantly, in a big win for the industry, California’s Proposition 21, which would remove necessary restrictions on local powers to enact rent control in the state, has failed with 60 percent of voters voting no.
- Also in California, Sacramento Measure C, which called for more stringent rent control in the city, failed by a margin of 60-39 percent.
- The measure proposed to cap annual rate adjustments according to the consumer price index, with a minimum increase of 2 percent and a maximum of 5 percent, and establish a rent board to adjudicate petitions for additional increases and develop penalties for noncompliance and implement just cause eviction restrictions.
- Housing providers could not terminate a tenancy unless one of nine specified conditions exists. Under four of those conditions, providers would be required to provide relocation assistance of at least $5,500.
Legalization and Decriminalization of Street Drugs
- At the state level, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, while voters in Mississippi and South Dakota approved medical marijuana programs.
- Washington, D.C., voters decriminalized entheogenic plants and fungi—psychedelic plants including ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms. Oregon decriminalized small amounts of certain controlled substances, such as heroin, cocaine and meth, and became the first state to legalize psilocybin mushrooms.
Minimum Wage Increases
- Portland, Maine voters also approved Question A which increases the minimum wage to $15 ($18 for city employees for any work performed during an emergency declared by the state or the municipality if that emergency applies to the employee’s geographical workplace). City staff are analyzing the impacts of the referendum questions that passed.
- Florida’s Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15, has passed by a margin of 61-39 percent, barely clearing the threshold for approval. It raises the minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30, 2021 and then increases annually by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour in 2026, when it then reverts back to annual adjustments for inflation.
- As of this writing, California’s Proposition 15, which would require commercial properties to be taxed based on their market value rather than their purchase price, has failed by a margin of 52-48 percent. Prop 15 would have unraveled Proposition 13’s longstanding property tax protections, which includes residential properties in the state.
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program has long served as a critical component of the nation’s strategy to ensure low- to moderate-income households have access to affordable housing. While the rental housing industry strongly supports voluntary participation in the HCV program and many housing providers actively participate, the program's broader success is hampered by inefficiencies and duplicative requirements. These challenges have had the effect of reducing industry participation in the program. On November 11, the National Apartment Association (NAA) hosted it’s fourth installment in the Government Affairs Roundtable (GART) virtual learning series, “Overcoming Barriers to Participation in the Section 8 HCV Program”, where speakers delved into the barriers to housing provider participation in the HCV program and discussed source of income-related advocacy strategies.
Dr. Stefanie DeLuca, James Coleman Professor of Sociology & Social Policy at Johns Hopkins University, highlighted her research which found 70 percent of housing providers who refuse voucher holders had, in fact, accepted them previously. Dr. Deluca also shared findings and anecdotes supporting NAA’s position that rental housing providers do not accept vouchers because of valid business reasons, not because of an intent to discriminate against voucher holders themselves. Dr. Deluca is part of a team of researchers who are conducting ongoing HUD-funded research which explores barriers to housing provider participation. Their research proposes a number of opportunities to keep current housing provider participants engaged and encourage new participants in the HCV program. It is a matter of doing the basics well, including on-time payments, damage payment insurance, utility allowances, responsiveness, and standardization of inspections, increasing satisfaction among housing providers.
JD Carey, Executive Director of the Louisville Apartment Association (LAA) and the Kentucky Apartment Association, also shared his efforts to collaborate with the Louisville Metro Housing Authority (LMHA) to incentivize voluntary housing provider participation. Their efforts focused on increasing participation by deploying a LMHA staff member to act as a dedicated “landlord liaison”, sign on and vacancy loss (re-rent) bonuses, and a damage mitigation program. LMHA also tailors solutions to the needs of the housing market, such as increased monetary incentives for one-bedroom apartments since there is a shortage of availability locally. While the incentive program started in September, LAA is already seeing an increase in participation of its members.
Along with the affiliate network, NAA maintains that incentives are key to improving housing provider participation in the HCV program voluntarily and are more effective to expand renters’ access to areas of opportunity than “source of income” mandates. While well intentioned, source of income legislation does nothing to improve the challenges housing providers face in participating in the program. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must modernize the program to make it more like the standard leasing transaction and optimize its potential for success. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration on proposed improvements.
As more states and localities consider solutions to housing affordability and seek ways to find safe and affordable housing for the low-to-middle income population, we anticipate the source of income legislation will remain a hot topic and concern for the industry. To better assist our affiliates, NAA has a plethora of information that can be found on the Source of Income policy page.
If you are aware of any new source of income proposals or have questions about the issue, please contact Jodie Applewhite, Manager of Public Policy.
As of the morning of November 13, Former Vice-President Joe Biden has been declared the winner of the Presidential Election, securing victory in states representing 290 electoral votes. Several states are still outstanding:
- Georgia has tallied about 98% of its votes and Biden has a lead of under 10,000 votes for the state's 15 Electoral votes. A recount will be required, pursuant to state law.
- In North Carolina, state officials will still tally ballots received through November 12, provided they were postmarked by Election Day. It is estimated that this will represent 3% of ballots cast. Trump holds a one-and-a-half-point lead there for its 15 Electoral votes.
In Congress, Republicans are upending the predictions of a majority of pollsters and pundits and currently narrowly holding their lead in the Senate and appear to be cutting into Democrats’ majority in the House, though Democrats will likely hold the majority there. Final counts in dozens of districts are not yet available.
As of early Wednesday morning, Democrats have defeated 2 Republican incumbents and won Senate seats in Arizona and Colorado. Along with the defeat of the Democratic incumbent in Alabama, Democrats have netted 1 seat, which puts them at 48 seats. Republicans are holding 50 seats. A party needs 51 Senate seats to control the chamber if the President is from a different party and 50 if the President is from the same party (the sitting Vice President can break ties in the Senate).
There are pending results in three Senate races:
In Georgia, Sen. David Purdue will face a January 5 runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
The Georgia special Senate election featuring incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler will go to a runoff on January 5 between her and Democrat Raphael Warnock.
Other Senate races rated competitive or even Toss Ups in Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina remained in the control of Republicans. Democrats held on in Michigan.
Defying predictions of Democratic gains of nearly 10-15 seats, Republicans have defeated several Democratic incumbents and are holding seats that were tossups or thought to be trending towards Democrats. Republicans look to have captured at least 10 seats.
We will keep NAA members updated as more states and races are called.
The U.S. housing industry is in peril. Demand for quality affordable housing is surging as new apartment construction experiences its lowest numbers in five years. Housing providers alone are being asked to shoulder the financial effects of COVID-19 and manage their communities while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction ban for nonpayment of rent remains in effect for the remainder of the year. In addition, housing providers must comply with layers of federal, state and local emergency requirements that are eroding the viability of their businesses. As this election cycle comes to a close, we are reminded that more work must be done to provide relief to struggling rental housing owners and operators. We need our next president to lead the charge.
Rental housing providers face the prospect of a 12-month extension of the federal eviction moratorium as contemplated in the revised HEROES Act. Meanwhile, Congress remains unable to pass robust rental assistance or broad federal business liability protections, leaving the industry overexposed to irreparable financial losses that will have lasting impact on housing providers and renters alike.
Yet the state of housing in our country was never a marquee issue during any facet of the 2020 election cycle, despite its universal importance to all Americans. During the Democratic Primaries, a crowded pool of candidates catered more towards shouting over one another than actual policy driven discourse. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and candidates were forced to consolidate their campaigns, taking our nation’s election season into uncharted territory. In many cases, access to each candidate was limited. Understanding each campaign’s policies became more difficult, and the chance to tackle housing’s challenges more distant.
Joe Biden’s nomination brought forward a housing plan influenced by his fellow Democratic candidates. Biden’s housing strategy did include additional resources that would make affordable housing development easier and financially feasible, albeit in many ways concerning to the housing industry. Ultimately, a successful national housing strategy can only be achieved when stakeholders on all sides of the discussion are brought together to discuss sustainable solutions that collectively move us forward.
President Trump and Biden’s first engagement failed to address the concerns of the housing industry, or any substantive concerns of the American people . When the candidates met for their second and final scheduled debate of the 2020 election cycle, both candidates failed to mention housing’s intrinsic link to the topic dominating the evening: COVID-19. COVID-19 has placed pressures on housing providers that jeopardize business operations, the affordability of housing and its overall availability to those that need housing most.
Neither candidate addressed the federal eviction halt ordered by the CDC or the unintended consequences that it will have on housing providers and renters once the order expires. And when both candidates discussed the need to help businesses get back on their feet with federal funding, neither candidate addressed the significant limitations to accessing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which contained the outright exclusion of segments of the rental housing industry and prevented their workforces from obtaining relief.
With the election on our doorstep, time has run out for the candidates to make housing a priority. As the industry has done throughout the crisis, it is time again for National Apartment Association (NAA) members to make their voice heard—this time with their voting power. NAA has endeavored over the last year to bring its members detailed analysis of the candidates as well as their historical and current impact on housing. It is now up to you as the voter to decide which candidate will champion the housing industry, ensure the industry has the capability to match record demand and work towards making housing affordable for renters at all price points.
Later this week, the NAA Political Affairs team will release an initial recap of results from the 2020 elections and the outlook for control of Congress and the White House. More updates will follow as needed. For more information on housing policy concerns in the 2020 Presidential campaign, please contact NAA Manager of Public Policy, Sam Gilboard.
Earlier this month, the National Apartment Association (NAA) led a virtual session on the subject of “housing in the era of Covid” before a prominent group of municipal officials from across the country. Housing, of course, is just one of the many concerns that local governments are grappling with in the wake of the pandemic – however – unlike the other concerns, the issue of housing predated it.
This is an important point in that the issue of housing carries with it a lot of baggage that has, and will continue to, influence the government’s response to the health crisis. As we have seen it has affected the short-term emergency response, is currently influencing the mid-term recovery, and worse yet, may yet attempt to rewrite long-term housing policy.
None of this is set in stone. If nothing else, the past couple months of listening and presenting to our state and local partners has revealed some consistent themes. While they are in desperate need of solutions, what they are really looking for is guidance and a trusted partner to help craft those solutions.
The most recent presentation hosted by the Community Leaders of America (CLA), an organization that prioritizes public-private partnerships to address civic issues, netted some interesting discussion points that industry can benefit from.
It should be noted that the audience responded well to the work that the industry has done since the start of the pandemic. Some of these notable highlights include:
- Essential Industry – While many were aware that the industry’s designation was necessary to allow us to operate during mandatory lockdowns, many were not. That point served to remind them of the industry’s importance to the fabric and function of the community.
- Community Resource – Particularly during the early days of the pandemic, how the industry served as a resource to residents regarding health-related updates from state, local and federal agencies. This helped fill the gap of knowledge between official communications and news reports.
- Resident Assistance – How the industry voluntarily started working with residents that were impacted by the virus with payment plans, waiving of late fees, etc. prior to any government mandate.
- Innovation – Without an established “pandemic handbook,” how the industry was able to respond with policies and best practices that prioritized resident and employee health and safety.
- Advocacy – The apartment industry’s visibility in advocating for issues outside of its immediate interest, namely support for state and local stimulus.
While a major topic of conversation included the various eviction moratoria, many recognized the shortcomings of the policy beyond an emergency response. Many agreed that the current talk of extensions merely “kick the can down the road,” and essentially trade evictions with foreclosures.
Beyond evictions, a significant amount of time was spent discussing whether emergency response policies, in general, were sustainable. While many were interested in moving on to the recovery phase, the most pertinent part of the discussion centered around being able to recognize the difference between an emergency response and recovery policies; particularly at a time when everything is an emergency.
To bring that concern home, NAA and its real estate partners gave examples of how activist groups are attempting to “use the emergency” to promote failed housing policies of the past. Specifically, the group highlighted the following attributes to look for:
- When a policy merely extends an emergency and makes no attempt not solve it, and
- When a policy goes beyond the emergency and attempts to fundamentally alter the ability to develop, own, operate and manage apartment housing.
At the conclusion of the discussion, the group preferred the priority of reforming current housing policy to target those in need, over the creation broad untested policy. The CLA policy group will be developing and vetting specific policy recommendations in the coming months.
As always, let me know what you think at [email protected].