Western States Legislators Urge Congress to Provide Rent Relief

As federal and state eviction moratoriums are set to expire, lawmakers warn of a wave of mass evictions

For immediate release:

San Francisco, CA--State lawmakers, who chair housing committees in the California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington state legislatures, sent a letter to their respective Congressional delegations today urging federal lawmakers to pass a rent relief bill. 

California Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Hawaii State Senator Stanley Chang (D-Honolulu), Oregon State House Representative Julie Fahey (D-West Eugene and Junction City), Washington State House Representative Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline), and Washington State Senator Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) expressed deep concern that without federal action, millions of Americans risk being evicted and falling into homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Immediate action is needed to prevent a massive eviction crisis that could impede our ability to curb the transmission of COVID-19,” the lawmakers urged in the letter. “When renters are forced out of their homes, they either end up homeless, or are forced to move into overcrowded, temporary housing that does not allow them to follow the physical distancing urged by public health officials.” 

This letter comes as the United States is once again facing the possibility of mass evictions. The Center for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium, which has provided some protection for renters nationwide, is set to expire on December 31. A majority of states, including the four represented in the letter to Congress, have passed eviction moratoriums with varying levels of protections, but many of those policies expire within the next few months.

This leaves millions of renters across the country vulnerable to the threat of eviction at a time when widespread financial hardship and unemployment make it difficult to pay rent. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey reported that between October 28-November 9, over 15 million households had either “no confidence” or “slight confidence” in their ability to pay next month’s rent. A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia estimated that 1.3 million renter households in the United States will have accrued $7.2 billion in unpaid rent by the end of 2020.

Nine months after the first stay-at-home orders were implemented, COVID-19 cases and infection rates are increasing at an alarming rate. Government leaders and public health officials continue to ask the public to stay home and social distance, but that becomes a much more challenging task if millions of renters are forced from their homes. A large increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness could be especially disastrous at a time when the virus is spreading uncontrolled.  

The patchwork of federal, state, and local eviction moratoriums can only give temporary and limited relief to struggling tenants and property owners. The long-term solution to this problem is providing government-funded monetary relief to renters and owners.

States do not have the financial resources or the budgetary flexibility to allocate the level of funding sufficient to address this crisis. States cannot run deficits and must balance their budgets. All four states represented in the letter reported budget shortfalls this year as many states across the country are grappling with significant revenue loss.

Early on in the pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act, which gave Americans one-time stimulus checks and provided support for small businesses. However, no substantial rental relief funds were included in the legislation. The HEROES Act, proposed in May, did include funding for rental assistance. While the bill passed the House of Representatives, it stalled in the Senate without receiving a vote.