On Monday, 43 organizations from across the housing community sent a powerful statement to House and Senate leadership that emergency rental assistance must be included in the upcoming COVID-19 stimulus legislation. This broad coalition, representing lenders, property owners, developers, state and local housing agencies, affordable housing advocates, consumer groups and local governments, also recommended a core set of principles for lawmakers to consider in any rental assistance package. We sent a clear message that while the industry may disagree on the finer points, we are united behind the need for assistance that helps those in need and does so in the quickest, most effective manner possible.
The final version of this letter would not have been possible without the cooperation and good faith efforts of the numerous organizations who worked, edited and compromised to reach agreement on the broad principles for emergency rental assistance. No single organization owns these principles – we all own them together. Reaching agreement among such diverse perspectives is never easy, especially with an issue as complex as housing where there are multiple stakeholders with different priorities and policy agendas. In this instance, it was made easier because of our shared commitment to ensuring that the renters who live in the properties we build and finance are safe, healthy and financially stable.
While Congress works on this and other important issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the housing industry continues to support renters with programs and services of their own. Montana Housing is already providing up to $2,000 per month in housing assistance for renters impacted by COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, dozens of businesses, nonprofit and advocacy groups have stepped up to provide direct assistance to renters in need. Most recently, Camden Property Trust created a $5 million disaster relief fund to provide their renters with direct cash assistance for food, child care and other essential services. Across the country, property owners in the private and public sector have ramped up their property management and resident service platforms to keep their buildings safe and their residents as financially secure as possible.
There is much more that needs to be done, but I am hopeful that these efforts – and our proven ability to work together – will pave the way for comprehensive emergency rental assistance and send a clear message to Congress that the time to act is now. It’s not easy. Important achievements rarely are, but we are unified behind the simple truth that when renters are financially stable, the stability of the entire industry improves.
Bob Simpson is a Senior Policy Advisor at the National Housing Conference and Founder of Simpson Impact Strategies