Washington, DC—The Bipartisan Policy Center released federal policy recommendations today that would guarantee Americans are stably housed until the public health threat of COVID-19 diminishes. Research shows that an estimated 30 to 40 million Americans could be evicted if housing protections and resources expire without federal action. The recommendations are designed to dramatically reduce the number of working families with destabilizing rent burdens and at risk of eviction, minimize the number of people experiencing homelessness, and prevent further spread of COVID-19.
BPC’s report, Providing Stable, Healthy, and Affordable Rental Housing Through the COVID-19 Crisis, was developed in consultation with four former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials: former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros; former HUD Deputy Secretary Pamela Hughes Patenaude; former HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Orlando Cabrera; and former HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy, Development, and Research Erika Poethig.
“Struggling families need a lifeline as they weather the worst public health and economic crisis in our history,” said former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, a member of BPC’s board of directors. “Failing to move forward with another COVID-19 response package that meaningfully tackles unmet housing needs would be a core policy error.”
The report emphasizes that the United States was already experiencing an affordable housing crisis before the pandemic. Now COVID-19 is magnifying and accelerating the crisis, hitting communities of color the hardest, while simultaneously presenting a heightened threat to residents in federally assisted housing.
Currently, Congress and the Trump administration remain stalled in passing another COVID-19 response package, including additional household financial and rental assistance, stronger eviction prevention efforts, and related housing policies.
“Federal policymakers must act immediately to address the housing needs of America’s families,” said Andy Winkler, a BPC associate director. “BPC’s policy recommendations would collectively address the most urgent housing priorities, while creating stronger health and housing partnerships in our country and improving housing conditions as Americans spend more time working and learning at home.”
“Stable housing must be a top public health and COVID-19 prevention priority for Congress and the administration,” said Dr. Anand Parekh, BPC’s chief medical advisor. “Public health mandates to stay home and socially distance, as well as increased virtual learning and remote work, have exposed and elevated our country’s failure to stably and adequately house all Americans.”
Recommendations for Congress:
- Extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits and provide another round of direct payments.
- Appropriate at least $15 billion in flexible emergency rental assistance to prevent evictions.
- Extend forgivable loans or tax credits to property owners facing lost rental income.
- Provide $11.5 billion in funding to meet the housing needs of those experiencing homelessness.
- Provide at least $3 billion in emergency funding to cover emergency pandemic-related needs in federally assisted, congregate housing and address COVID-19 detection.
- Include U.S. Department of Agriculture and tribal rental assistance in the next COVID-19 response package.
- Encourage states to target uncommitted CARES Act and future funding allocations to help people experiencing homelessness and low-income renters.
- Augment regulatory flexibilities and waivers.
- Develop a testing, surveillance, and vaccination strategy for federally assisted congregate housing.