- On June 09, 2021
- In Affordable Housing
Three Federal Actions that will Protect Tenants’ Rights
On May 15, a federal judge ruled that the emergency ban on U.S evictions exceeds the CDC’s legal authority, causing housing uncertainty for many low-income tenants. This federal ruling, among other concerning news regarding housing policy, has sparked calls to action from advocacy groups for federal legislation to protect affordable housing and tenants’ rights.
As the conversation on housing and tenants’ rights takes center stage, we want to highlight three important actions that the federal government can take to make housing more affordable, accessible, and equitable for all residents.
Extending the Federal Eviction Moratorium
The Justice Department, representing the CDC, is appealing the May 15 ruling on the federal eviction moratorium. This appeal, which is currently awaiting a hearing, argues that striking the eviction moratorium conflicts with the ruling of other courts and Congress’s ratification of the moratorium. A federal judicial ruling or congressional legislation that extends the eviction moratorium will be crucial in protecting struggling tenants who can’t afford their rent. Ending the federal eviction moratorium now could result in millions of evictions, leaving vulnerable residents without homes even as the pandemic carries on in many underserved communities. An extension will ensure housing security for low-income residents, while also giving states additional time to make their emergency rental assistance relief programs more accessible.
Federal Oversight on Access to Emergency Rental Assistance Program
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program under the U.S. Department of the Treasury provides funding to households struggling to pay their rent or utility bills. The program received $25 billion from the 2020 Consolidated Appropriation Act and an additional $21.55billion in funding from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act. While this program seeks to provide much-needed rent relief, its decentralized structure has slowed distribution, meaning only a small portion of tenants have received aid. In Massachusetts and nationwide, housing advocates and tenants have been vocal about the difficulties of filing rental assistance applications. These difficulties have left many tenants unprotected and without much-needed aid, making it essential that the federal government act quickly. Increased federal oversight is necessary to make local rental assistance programs more efficient and convenient for low-income tenants.
Federal Regulation of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit
Created from the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is federal legislation that allows states to issue tax credits to investors who partner with nonprofits to fund the acquisition, rehabilitation, and construction of low-income housing. A recent investigative report by WBUR revealed that investment firms are maximizing profit on affordable units by putting low-income housing on the market for sale, resulting in legal battles launched by nonprofits in an effort to preserve low-income housing. In recent years, housing advocates have called for federal agencies such as the IRS to regulate the LIHTC program and transactions around low-income housing. Federal regulation could mitigate the selling of low-income units by keeping them in the hands of non-profit affordable housing groups, helping prevent displacement of vulnerable residents.
Now more than ever, it is important to stay informed about policies to protect tenants’ rights at the federal, state, and local levels. Federal reform and the expansion of the eviction moratorium, emergency relief assistance program, and LIHTC are just a few of the many ways that the federal government can proactively work to improve housing stability and accessibility. At IBA, we have incessantly worked with our tenants to educate them about these issues and to support them with accessing benefits, including unemployment and rental assistance, among others. As IBA continues to empower local residents, we alsoremain committed to advocating for the rights and protections of residents nationwide.
We are proud to be working to develop housing opportunities for low-income households in Boston. For more information on how you can support IBA, please visit our page: https://www.ibaboston.org/dona......