Why $ 46 billion in rent assistance couldn’t prevent evictions

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In recent months, the White House and the Treasury Department have been rushing to fix the program’s problems, repeatedly revising the guidelines to allow tenants to receive payments with minimal documentation, while enlisting judges to ‘State and even law students to help tenants delay or prevent their evictions.

Gene Sperling, who is responsible for overseeing pandemic relief programs for President Biden, estimated that despite rent assistance gaps so far, around 40% of the country’s vulnerable tenants are receiving a assistance or are temporarily protected from evictions by state and local moratoria. .

“If the worst performing states and localities don’t pick up the pace, there will be a significant and painful gap for hundreds of thousands of families,” Sperling said. “This is unacceptable and that is why we are continuing to push as hard as possible.”

No administration has previously taken on a similar role in trying to stop the evictions, which are overseen by state courts.

The federal government’s main housing subsidy is the Section 8 voucher program, which pays private landlords and non-profit groups the difference between the market rate and the amount a tenant can pay. Funding has stagnated for decades, and waiting lists of up to 10 years are not uncommon in many cities.

“We have a rental housing shortage, a secular decline in affordability, and cost-overrun tenants have very little buffer to put funds aside for a rainy day,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, director of the faculty. from the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University. “The pandemic has only underscored the need for a permanent federal emergency rental program. “

But Section 8, with its laborious certification requirements, did not provide a useful template for new emergency rental assistance funds. So when the virus hit – and the money started pouring in – the federal government, states, and communities essentially had to invent an entirely new system, a process that would otherwise have involved years of testing and testing. errors.


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