NAA members (virtually) take to the Hill to advocate on behalf of the rental housing industry.
The National Apartment Association held its first-ever virtual Advocate conference March 8, and with a record-setting attendance (more than 900 registered attendees—including 300 newcomers), it is clear that even a pandemic can’t keep the industry from making its voice heard on Capitol Hill.
The Opening General Session, hosted by 2021 NAA Chairman of the Board Rick Graf, CPM, featured an insightful talk and Q&A with seasoned journalist, presidential debate moderator and host of “Fox News Sunday” Chris Wallace.
Wallace addressed today’s most pressing public policy topics, including the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, and underscored the power of citizen advocates: “Involvement makes a difference, there’s no question about it,” he said. Wallace also recalled his childhood in his apartment in New York, saying, “There’s a wonderful kind of community in an apartment building.”
Advocate also featured an issues’ briefing and several concurrent education sessions focused on virtual advocacy, rental assistance programs, evictions and housing affordability in preparation for Hill visits. Among the issues for discussion with federal legislators and their staffs are continued support for emergency rental assistance funding; ending the federal eviction moratorium; supporting legislation to improve the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program; and supporting the Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) Act.
The Advocate conference comes at a time of dual-crises for rental housing in America—the near-term challenges caused by the novel coronavirus, and the long-term issue of housing affordability. While Congress has already taken some good steps to address the former, more must be done to prevent exacerbating the latter.
The industry was armed with insight into the steps the federal government can take to support residents as they recover from the financial effects of the pandemic and reduce the pressure on housing providers, who have been shouldering the costs alone. These include the creation of incentives to remove local barriers to housing development as well as reforming the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program to attract more participants and setting the program up for success.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) was signed by President Biden on Thursday, March 11, during the week of Advocate, and is a testament to the industry’s continued advocacy—not just during Advocate, but throughout the pandemic—that kept Congress’ attention on federal financial relief solutions to ensure the continued viability of the rental housing industry.
The legislation includes an additional $21.55 billion in dedicated emergency rental assistance funding, added to the $25 billion in rental assistance funding allocated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Importantly, the ARPA does not extend the federal eviction moratorium.
Apartment industry advocates logged 130 meetings in just the first week of Advocate. NAA Members continue to meet with federal policymakers throughout the month to stress the need for balanced and sustainable housing policy to get the industry through this crisis and beyond. This is the kind of sustained advocacy that enables the apartment industry to notch victories like nearly $45 billion in federal emergency rental assistance.
Michael Miller is Managing Editor for NAA.