As the country cries out for justice, it’s past time to advance policies that confront the systemic discrimination and racism at the foundation of our federal, state, and local housing systems. Make no mistake: the housing crisis is a racial justice problem, and it always has been. Through redlining, racist zoning laws, segregation and disinvestment, housing discrimination, to the disproportionate share of Black children and families who experience homelessness and the risk of eviction, the housing crisis has long been rooted in racist policy, and the time to address it is now.
The COVID pandemic is magnifying our housing and racial inequities at the same time it is creating financial instability for too many families. Nearly thirty percent of renter households with children couldn’t pay their rent in May, and nearly half of the lowest-income renters doubt they will be able to afford July rent. Forty-four million workers have filed for unemployment in just 12 weeks and more than half of Black households have lost income. Without federal intervention, millions of families, especially Black and Latino families, will fall behind on rent and could be subject to eviction in places that adopted no protections for renters or in places where eviction moratoriums have begun to expire like Texas and Oklahoma City.
If Congress fails to act, the harm will fall unequally on Black children and families, who are already disproportionately harmed by high housing costs, homelessness, and the devastating economic and health effects of the current pandemic.
In the face of this dire crisis, Americans are united in their support for substantial federal housing assistance. Ninety percent of the country supports emergency rental assistance for people who are struggling to afford the rent and are at serious risk of eviction and a uniform, nationwide policy that stops all evictions during the pandemic. Without action from Congress, a federal moratorium on evictions for federally backed government housing will expire on July 25, threatening a steep rise in homelessness and further racial disparities in housing.
Congress has approved some housing assistance to stop the bleeding, but it is not enough. Through the CARES Act passed in late March, Congress provided more than $12 billion in funding for HUD programs, but the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that Congress will need to appropriate at least another $100 billion in rental assistance to meet the dire need. The time to act is now to ensure families, especially families of color, are able to stay in their homes and avoid homelessness.
In May, the House passed the HEROES Act, which provides for housing assistance commensurate with the needs of families struggling to pay their rent during this crisis. Congress must enact the housing provisions in the HEROES Act:
- A uniform, nationwide, 12-month moratorium on evictions and foreclosures so no one is forced out of their home due to the economic fallout from this pandemic;
- $100 billion for emergency rental assistance targeted toward low-income renters so those affected by this crisis don’t fall behind on the rent and risk eviction when the moratorium is lifted; and
- $11.5 billion in Emergency Solutions Grants to ensure that individuals experiencing homelessness are safely housed during this crisis.
Congress should build upon this legislation and provide more resources for children and youth experiencing homelessness by including:
- Additional funding for the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program (EHCY) so children and youth, students with disabilities, and foster youth experiencing homelessness have the materials and technology they need for remote learning, as well as access to school meals and other school-based services; and
- Additional funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program (RHYA) to help children and youth experiencing homelessness with housing and supportive services.
As our nation looks beyond the immediate repercussions of the pandemic, we must prioritize long-term structural changes to eradicate the housing and homelessness crisis plaguing our nation. We should center our approach to housing on eliminating racial disparities, breaking down systemic racism in our housing policies, and ensuring more equitable and less segregated housing and neighborhoods so that all families have access to quality affordable housing. For more information on our housing proposals, download our fact sheet here.