Rep. Maloney Advocates for Streamlined Rental Assistance Programs and Renter Protections
WASHINGTON, DC — At today’s Financial Services Committee virtual hearing titled “Protecting Renters During the Pandemic: Reviewing Reforms to Expedite Emergency Rental Assistance,” Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), senior member of the committee, highlighted the need for Congress to streamline rental assistance programs to better serve renters and landlords across the country.
During the hearing, Congresswoman Maloney stated, “As we’ve discussed, Congress provided nearly $50 billion in December and in the American Rescue Plan to help residents stay safely housed and to be able to afford their rent. This was necessary relief. 100 percent essential. Not just for the health and safety of these residents during a pandemic, but a mass eviction crisis would have inflicted needless damage to our economy and to our families.”
She then asked Kadeem Morris, Supervising Attorney at Community Legal Services Inc., about his experience on the frontlines in Philadelphia, PA, helping tenants with the rental assistance application process, where both landlords and renters need to complete the application to receive assistance. Specifically, renters seeking assistance whose landlords are not willing to apply, and the reverse.
Mr. Morris responded, “It has presented as an issue, there are two portions to the application: there’s the landlord application and the tenant application. If the landlord applies on behalf of a tenant, it generates an affidavit that the tenant has to sign. I do believe that creating the additional flexibility where the landlord would not need to go to the tenant to get that affidavit signed and then submitted will allow that landlord to get a direct payment themselves. Once they have made the necessary efforts to inform their tenants that the program exists, and get them to apply for funding. But it has been an issue.”
Congresswoman Maloney then turned to Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, asking “Can you add or can you speak to how this issue presents a problem, if it does, for tenants seeking assistance and how the bill introduced by Chairwoman Waters would help address this problem?”
Ms. Yentel answered, “Requiring a program to have both the landlord and tenant involvement when getting emergency rental assistance provides important safeguards against fraud and against tenant harassment – really important safeguards for the tenant. We have heard cases where tenants are not able to complete their applications, and certainly there have been cases where landlords have been refusing to accept emergency rental assistance when the application is approved and the money is presented to them. So, the solutions on incomplete applications by tenants comes back to simplifying applications using self-attestation wherever possible, and requiring that all programs do these actions. On the landlord side, where there’s a whole variety of reasons why landlords seem to be refusing to participate, a solution to many of those challenges is to provide the assistance directly to the tenant, so that the tenant can pay the rent and the landlord, if they don’t want to be involved in a government program, doesn’t have to be involved at all. Only 28 percent of programs are currently using direct to tenant assistance explicitly, and all should be required to use this essential safeguard, as would happen under Chairwoman Waters’ legislation.”
You can watch the full exchange here.