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Waters on Emergency Housing Legislation: Urgent Action Needed to Prevent Eviction Crisis

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, gave the following floor statement regarding her bill, H.R. 7301, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020. 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in strong support of H.R. 7301, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020. This bill includes several provisions that were included in the Heroes Act and independently led by a number of Members of the Financial Services Committee. Some people hearing about this bill won’t understand what we are trying to do in this bill today. As I said, this was part of the Heroes Act that passed this House, but we have been waiting on the Senate to take up the Heroes Act. They are not taking it up, they don’t seem to care, they don’t seem to understand that there are people out there who are going to be evicted, and so we have pulled it out of the Heroes Act and we are taking it up independently so that we can send a message to the Senate that we want this measure heard and so we have a number of Members who participated in putting this legislation together and who had independent bills to do so. That includes Representatives William Lacy Clay, Denny Heck, David Scott, Chuy Garcia, Cindy Axne, Nydia Velazquez, Ayanna Pressley, Katie Porter, and Al Green. 

Mr. Speaker, America was facing an affordable housing crisis before this pandemic hit. With so many families struggling as a result of the pandemic, we are now on the precipice of an eviction and homelessness crisis like we’ve never seen in our lifetimes. 

We can’t wait any longer we got to move. The CARES Act was an important step towards providing relief, but more help is needed. We knew, for example, that an eviction moratorium without the provision of rental assistance would only delay disastrous outcomes as families would have to pay, more than they could afford, a lump sum of three to four months of unpaid rent at the expiration of the moratorium.

This House followed through on providing several additional and targeted housing solutions when it passed the Heroes Act. Unfortunately, in the 45 days since Heroes passed, there has been no action taken by either our Republican colleagues in the Senate or the Trump Administration. This is simply unacceptable.

As a matter of fact someone said this morning and I repeat,we have not heard one word, not one peep from this Administration about rental assistance. We saw in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis what the consequences are when Congress acts too slowly: 10 million foreclosures, almost $17 trillion in household wealth lost, and increases in rates of homelessness all across the country. And we saw how communities of color were disproportionately hit with foreclosures and a corresponding loss of wealth after they had been targeted with predatory mortgage products.

Today there are over 2.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and over 125,000 Americans have died. The Centers for Disease Control reported that, as of June 20, hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are highest among Native, Black and LatinX Americans. We also know that people of color account for the largest portion of essential workers, have a higher incidence of pre-existing health conditions, have limited access to healthcare, and have fewer opportunities to isolate because they cannot work from home. But I must emphasize that this pandemic did not create such disparities; it only exacerbated them. And I hope this pandemic has finally drawn widespread public attention to all of these disparities.

Congress cannot fail again to quickly act as we did in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. Since passage of the Heroes Act, our nation’s renters and homeowners have experienced renewed pressures.

  • When June rent came due, one in three renters were unable to fully pay their rent.
  • On June 14th, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that the number of homeowners in forbearance reached 4.2 million.
  • Since passage of the Heroes Act we have now experienced record days of both new positive coronavirus tests, including in Texas, Florida, Georgia and my state of California.
  • And, since the Heroes Act passed, over 11 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance.

There are now only 25 days left before the federal eviction ban expires on July 25. When it does, many families who have been unable to pay their rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic will face eviction and the devastating consequences that evictions have on families, particularly children. Our Committee heard testimony in January from one gentleman about what it was like when all of his belongings were put out onto the sidewalk, as he and his children were forced out of their home. He told us how he fell behind on rent while trying to obtain training for a higher paying job and how the sheriff banged on his door one morning while his nine-year old son was getting ready for school. He described how he and his wife watched as all of their personal belongings were thrown onto the front lawn, including items with sentimental value like their wedding photos. He said, “I remember the feeling that I’d failed. Failed as a husband and as a father to provide a place for my family.” Several landlords declined his rental applications after charging a non-reimbursable application fee likely because they saw the eviction on his record and he and his family stayed at motels that were even more costly than paying rent.

Maya Angelou wrote that, “Home is a refuge not only from the world, but a refuge from my worries, my troubles, my concerns.” And we know all too well what happens to families, and especially children, when their homes are forcibly taken from them. We cannot sit idly by.

We must understand that aneviction can disrupt every aspect of a family’s life, putting them at greater risk of job loss, homelessness, and gaps or other disruptions to a child’s education. Housing instability can be particularly traumatic for young children and can have life-long impacts. Studies show that children who avoid eviction due to a long-term housing subsidy have better educational achievement, obtain higher paying jobs as adults, and are less likely to become incarcerated.  Many families with evictions on their records cannot find another home and fall into homelessness.

We cannot sit idly by and let this eviction crisis cause irreparable harm to millions of families around the country.

The bill before us today pulls out the key housing protection and relief provisions from the Heroes Act. Specifically, let me tell you what the bill does:

  • Provides $100 billion for an emergency rental assistance fund and $75 billion for a homeowners assistance fund to ensure renters and homeowners can cover their housing expenses, including rent, mortgage payments, and utility bills;  
  • Extends and expands the eviction and foreclosure moratoria for all renters and homeowners, as well as provides additional forbearance relief;
  • Provides $18 billion in funding for homeless assistance and other federal housing assistance programs to ensure rents remain affordable and housing is maintained in a safe and decent condition;
  • Creates a lending facility for mortgage servicers and rental property owners to help them finance their obligations and shortfalls in rent;
  • It ensures robust fair housing enforcement and housing counseling to protect all renters and homeowners.

What happens next is up to us. Each of us in this chamber knows the value of a place where we and our family come together, share a meal, and safely rest our heads. We also know that households of color have still not fully recovered from the 2008 crisis, and we know that they will continue to be disproportionately impacted if the pandemic causes the housing crisis to worsen.

I, for one, refuse to do nothing while families suffer. This is an emergency, and it calls for the emergency response provided by this legislation. We can’t wait.

I strongly urge my colleagues to support this bill.

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