A Fraction Of Federal Relief Has Made It To Renters As Eviction Moratorium Hangs By A Thread
The $45B that the U.S. government has allocated for rent relief in the past six months has barely made a dent, and time may be running out for it to fulfill its purpose.
Over 340 programs have been launched by states and municipalities to distribute federal rental assistance, the National Low Income Housing Coalition reports. But state programs, which have been given the largest chunk of funds, have distributed only millions of dollars each in most cases — not tens of millions or the hundreds of millions they have received, Vox reports.
States were tasked with creating mechanisms to give billions of dollars from scratch — and to do so in such a way that could stand up to potential audits from the Treasury Department that those dollars go to those who actually need it, Vox reports.
In order to meet that threshold, those mechanisms required renters to provide proof of need and identity that many in the most dire need don't have or would struggle to produce. And that only matters for renters (and in some places, landlords as well) who are aware of their state's programs, which may be only a small percentage of those eligible, Vox reports.
A large majority of renters in the U.S. have made at least partial rent payments in the past month, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. While a positive sign, rent payments can mask the fact that many have gone into credit card debt, sold possessions or borrowed money from friends and family to pay rent. And though Treasury guidance holds that owed rent is not a prerequisite for receiving rental assistance, some states have added that requirement, leaving tenants to decide between risking eviction or receiving assistance, Vox reports.
The risk of eviction looms, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of June without another extension. And judges across the country have ruled that the CDC exceeded its authority in issuing the moratorium, bringing the threat of eviction even closer. It would then fall to state and local governments to keep their own moratoriums in place.
But the longer those moratoriums hold without rental relief making its way to those who need it, the more small landlords will fall behind on mortgage payments, potentially removing naturally occurring affordable housing from the inventory. As much as 41% of all rental units are owned by "mom-and-pop landlords," according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and such units are on average less expensive than single-family rentals or medium and large apartment buildings, according to the Urban Institute.