Safe, stable housing has long been a pressing concern among those who steward health and well-being. Humane housing is a central tenet of how much a family is able to thrive and support multi-generational health. It comes as no surprise that housing has become a central theme during the COVID-19 crisis. With so many people living paycheck to paycheck, the ability to pay rent or a mortgage has been severely hindered by the number of job losses the United States has seen.
From the onset of the pandemic, many cities and states recognized the crisis and placed a moratorium on evictions, which was then extended at the national level. The CARES Act also stepped in to give families short-term direct funds towards housing payments. However, the lack of economic rebound and no renewal of the stimulus program has led to rising rental debt, and an uncertain future for many.
The solution is not solely to say renters don’t have to pay; landlords still bear the burden of mortgage, insurance, and maintenance costs that could cause them to lose their property and create a situation that allows institutional investors to snap up affordable housing and flip it to upscale homes. According to Shelterforce—a long standing voice in community development— the most pressing crisis is still on the way.
In this time of recovery and renewal, we do have options to improve the humane housing situation. Thriving Together: A Springboard for Equitable Recovery and Resilience in Communities Across America highlights some key pivotal moves:
- Prohibit unaffordable balloon payments for ending forbearance periods and other postponements of payments.
- All housing expenses associated with homeownership should be frozen for families facing income loss associated with the outbreak, without damaging their credit. This includes mortgage payments, taxes, homeowner and flood insurance, and utility bills.
- Halt evictions and foreclosures. Provide emergency housing for everyone who doesn’t have a home, including people experiencing homelessness, being released from incarceration and detention, or facing domestic violence. Ensure the right to counsel for tenants facing eviction despite local and federal laws.
- To prevent a flood of evictions at the end of moratorium periods, implement a program of rent and mortgage forgiveness.