Congress Considers Rental Assistance Program Reform

Posted By: Karey Landers Industry ,


Recently, the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) passed H.R. 5196, as amended, by a party line vote of 28-22. The bill reforms the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and redefines how state and local grantees should structure their programs and distribute federal rental assistance dollars. Since January, grantees have only obligated or distributed 16.5 percent of the nearly $47 billion in funds appropriated by Congress. Next steps for the bill are in flux as House Leadership considers options for this legislation and other priority items.

Alongside our coalition partners, the National Apartment Association (NAA) has been engaging with the Committee over several iterations of the bill. The latest version is certainly an improvement. It allows for self-attestation for all eligibility criteria to expedite processing of applications and creates a process for housing providers to notify residents that they will apply for rental assistance on their behalf (allowing an application process that is no longer contingent on the renter’s consent).

We remain concerned about the inclusion of a 120-day eviction moratorium (even in limited circumstances), restrictions on opportunities for housing provider assistance and other provisions that would increase barriers to housing provider participation and ultimately hinder rental assistance programs’ success.

Learn more about NAA’s key takeaways of this bill:

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Amends rental assistance laws in the American Rescue Plan Act (also known as ERA 2) to increase the amount of assistance (up to 24 months) that ERAP grantees can provide to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amends language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act’s rental assistance laws (also known as ERA 1) from “may” to “shall” making clear that grantees are required to provide direct-to-renter assistance if the housing provider refuses to participate.

Amends ERA 1 to create a new housing provider-led application process (where notification of the renter is required, not consent).

Amends ERA 1 to require, as a condition to obtaining assistance under the housing provider-led process without renters’ consent, a 120-day eviction moratorium beginning from the date of application and mandates that the amount of assistance received is deemed to satisfy all monetary claims. 

Amends ERA 1 to require grantees to create systems to process and approve aggregated applications and provide a single payment to housing providers for these applications.

Amends ERA 1 to require prioritization of renter-led applications and housing provider-led applications in which renter consent was obtained before housing provider-led applications where renter consent was not obtained.

Amends ERA 1 to allow for self-attestation or proxies for all resident eligibility criteria.

Amends ERA 1 laws to allow renters in federally assisted housing to opt out and prevent housing providers from applying for assistance on their behalf.

Amends ERA 1 to enable eligibility of those who experienced financial hardship “during” the pandemic, expanding beyond those who experienced financial hardship “due to” the pandemic.

Amends ERA 1 to allow housing providers to obtain rental assistance for vacant units but excludes those who have filed for eviction from obtaining relief.

Amends ERA 1 to direct the U.S. Department of the Treasury and grantees to conduct outreach to housing providers and renters to increase awareness of ERAP programs.

 

The vote followed robust discussion about the bill by legislators and industry stakeholders during the Committee’s September 10 hearing. The hearing featured testimony from NAA and National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) members Gilbert J. Winn, Chief Executive Officer, Winn Companies and David Schwartz, CEO, Chairman & Co-Founder of Waterton, who also serves as NMHC’s 2021 Chairman (read his written testimony here).

Consistent with NAA’s continued federal advocacy on emergency rental assistance, we continue to support program improvements that would ultimately speed up processing of applications and distribution of funds, leading to improved outcomes for participating renters and housing providers. Any ERAP reform efforts should prioritize combining ERA 1 and ERA 2 program requirements, simplifying processes and ensuring consistent program delivery across grantees. Both housing providers and renters who have been affected by COVID-19 are relying on emergency rental assistance. To learn more about our ERAP reforms asks, read our letter to Congress.

To learn more about rental assistance policy, contact Nicole Upano, NAA’s Director of Public Policy.