We have joined with our partners at Texas Tenants’ Union and Texas Homeless Network in ensuring that the COVID-19 crisis does not spark a homelessness and displacement crisis in its wake. Having evaluated what the State of Texas has received thus far in federal relief, we see that the current funds available will fall far short of what is needed to keep our fellow Texans housed. We need Congress to get right to work to ensure that mass displacement does not occur and local budgets aren’t pushed beyond their limits. We need measures like a uniform moratorium on evictions, $100 billion in emergency rental assistance, and $11.5 billion in Emergency Solutions Grant funding.
Our letter to the Texas Congressional Delegation outlining the necessary precautions to protect low-income households is in full below.
To Texas Congressional Delegation
Re: Support for National Eviction Moratorium
and $100 Billion Emergency Rental Assistance Fund
RE: Urgent Need to Make Housing Assistance a Top Priority for the Next COVID-19 Relief Package
Dear Members of the Texas Congressional Delegation,
Thank you for your critical support for housing programs in the CARES Act. The $12 billion in homelessness and affordable housing resources included in the CARES Act will save lives and assist individuals and families across Texas and the entire country. Texas can expect to receive close to $220 million to address urgent housing needs.
But this is not nearly enough. The undersigned Texas tenant, housing and community organizations urge you to advocate with Congressional leadership to ensure that emergency assistance for low income renters and people experiencing homelessness, is included on the “short list” of priorities for the next COVID relief package.
Several national surveys found that more than 25% of renters were unable to pay their full rent on time in April. As stimulus checks arrived, rent payments increased, but the ability to pay rent in May and beyond is a serious concern. Besides threatening millions with displacement, this will wreak havoc with Texas’s rental housing market and have a cascade effect, as landlords are unable to pay utility, insurance, mortgages and tax bills and city budgets are devastated due to the COVID pandemic.
Although Texas has a statewide moratorium on evictions through May 18, tenants who are unable to pay will face a rent backlog and explosion of debt when eviction hearings resume. Congress must step in now to provide substantial housing resources to prevent mass displacement and chaos in rental markets and city budgets.
Many low income renters facing displacement are people of color, whose communities have been disproportionately devastated by COVID, and include many front line workers whose housing stability is critical not only to their health, but to the ability of the larger community to survive the pandemic. Mass displacement will threaten a resurgence of COVID, since homeless households are at greater risk of infection and mortality.
This crisis has exposed the fault lines of housing insecurity and racial injustice entrenched in our state even before the COVID crisis, where 73% of extremely low income renters in Texas already are severely cost-burdened, meaning they pay 50% or more of their income toward rent. Additionally, more than 25,000 Texans are homeless, and there’s a shortage of nearly 9,000 beds. The COVID crisis will cause these numbers to increase.
It is therefore critical that the next COVID-19 spending package should give a top priority to rental housing assistance and homelessness relief to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Texans during the continued pandemic. As you know, the proposals below were included in HR 6379 on March 23, but not included in the CARES Act. As the May 1 rent deadline looms with tens of millions of tenants nationwide unable to pay, we urge you to prioritize these elements in the next COVID-19 spending package:
$100 billion in Rental Assistance: Emergency rental assistance in the amount of $100 billion is needed to prevent mass evictions and increased homelessness, as documented by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. When the moratoria end, renters will still owe and be unable to pay the backlog of rent that is likely to accumulate because of layoffs and declining incomes. Emergency rental assistance can be provided through a combination of Emergency Solutions Grants, Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 515 Rural Rent Assistance, or the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), which was used by past Administrations to address the short-term needs of renters.
Uniform Moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions: Housing stability will be crucial in the coming weeks and months, especially for low-income renters. Congress should move to enact a uniform moratorium on all stages of the foreclosure and eviction process nationwide to address the current patchwork of moratoria at the federal, state, and local levels.
$11.5 billion in Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funding. This combined with the $4 billion previously provided in the CARES Act will reach the funding level needed to expand access to emergency shelter, short-term rental assistance, and housing stabilization services. ESG funds should also be used to provide medical respite care, outreach, and street medicine for people experiencing homelessness. With its large population of people experiencing homelessness, Texas needs additional ESG funds to get people off the streets and out of dangerous congregate shelters into “Housing First,” for their health and safety and that of the community at large.
Thank you for considering this request and for your continued advocacy for affordable housing for Texas residents.
Texas Tenants’ Union
Texas Homeless Network
Funding allocations for the additional amounts dedicated under the CARES Act to the Community Development Block Grant program and homelessness assistance grants available through the Emergency Solutions Grant program can be found here.