Alabama Realtors® Asks Governor Ivey to Establish Rental Assistance Program; NAR Asks Congress for Rental Relief
November 17, 2020
As the COVID pandemic continues into its ninth month and enters into winter, the need for additional support for both renters and housing providers is increasing. Many renters have struggled to make rent and utility payments during the pandemic that, after nine months, still has no end in sight. The recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eviction moratorium order was issued without rental assistance, providing short-term protection to tenants for nonpayment, but this will ultimately cause more harm to renters, housing providers, and the economy. Many tenants are so far behind on rental payments they are unlikely to be able to catch up once the CDC moratorium comes to an end without a rental assistance program. The result will be tragic loss of housing for waves of tenants.
Our members who work in property management and the rental housing sector have witnessed firsthand the effects COVID-19 has had on tenants’ livelihood. Realtors® take their responsibility seriously to ensure residents are safe and secure during this state of emergency. As the pandemic continues, assistance will be needed for housing providers to ensure they can cover the expenses of providing rental housing for those tenants in need, in light of increasing numbers of tenants unable or unwilling to pay rent. As mortgage, insurance, and tax bills mount, and as housing providers remain responsible for general maintenance on their properties, rental income has become less and less reliable and, in many cases, nonexistent. As a result of the challenges housing providers are facing, many are deferring paying for maintenance, repairs, and other standard operating expenses as they struggle to make ends meet. The situation places these properties and those living there at risk both physically and financially and foretells an unstable, potentially dangerous situation in the coming months.
The Alabama Association of Realtors® (AAR) has requested Governor Ivey consider establishing a broad Rental Assistance Grant Program using a portion of the federal CARES Act funds that will help renters and housing providers and aid in the stabilization of the rental sector during the upcoming winter months. At this time, 21 other states have established similar programs. The State of Alabama was awarded approximately $1.9 billion in CARES Act money from the federal government. A large portion of those funds, approximately $974.2 million, remain unspent as the end of year deadline draws near, unless Congress takes action to extend the deadline.
AAR believes an adequately funded Alabama Rental Assistance Grant Program will require at least $100 million in CARES Act funding to adequately meet the expected needs of Alabamians during the winter months ahead and extend into the first quarter of 2021. AAR’s request would dedicate $50 million for residential property renters and housing providers; $30 million for commercial renters and property owners; and $20 million for utility assistance and expenses. The Grant program would have strong accountability measures to ensure the funds go toward the intended purpose. Grant payments would go directly to the housing provider, property owner, or utility provider.
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) recently sent a letter Congress requesting broad rental assistance for both renters and housing providers. NAR’s letter says keeping people in their homes during the pandemic “requires a comprehensive approach, for both residents and property owners.” NAR “implores Congress to extend additional COVID-19 relief measures and fund a strong federal assistance program that protects the long-term stability of our nation’s housing markets.”
The letter makes four major requests:
- Provide financial assistance to renters in need.
- Replace eviction moratoriums that will not solve our nation’s housing problems.
- Expand the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to include all multifamily businesses.
- Provide full-year funding for Fiscal Year 2021 for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and provide funding for the Department of Agriculture’s rental assistance programs.
The Realtor® organization will continue to monitor this issue and advocate for our members and consumers for this critical need during the pandemic and in the months ahead. Rental assistance will help families across our state avoid eviction while also ensuring property owners can continue to provide housing to Alabamians in the months and years to come. Working alongside the National Association of Realtors® and other state and local Realtor® groups, the Alabama Association of Realtors® will continue to fight for a legitimate, sustainable solution on behalf of our members and all local housing providers.