Pelosi backs bill to expedite rental aid after eviction ruling

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is throwing support behind legislation aiming to expedite federal rental aid to tenants and landlords, an issue that has taken on particular urgency for Democrats after a recent Supreme Court ruling that struck the down the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium.

Pelosi on Monday lauded the efforts by House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) in seeking to reform the nationwide emergency rental assistance program, as state and local governments have been slow to distribute federal aid amid a housing crisis that has worsened amid the pandemic. 

During a call hosted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Pelosi said Waters was working on building a “consensus” behind the rental aid bill, which like many Democratic priorities will require compromise to overcome likely Republican resistance. 

In a Dear Colleague letter last week, Waters said the legislation she is working on — and plans to present for mark up on Sept. 13 — would require grantees “to accept the self-attestation of a tenant and to provide assistance directly to tenants in certain circumstances.”

Waters said the forthcoming bill would also allow landlords to “directly apply for back rent after providing notice to their tenants that they intend to apply” and instruct the Treasury Department and “grantees to conduct additional outreach to prospective tenants and landlords,” while also providing the Treasury with an additional $25 million to do so.

According to recent data released by the Treasury Department, almost 90 percent of the federal rental aid allocated to state and local governments has yet to be distributed, leaving roughly $40 billion from reaching those now living under threat of eviction. 

A number of lawmakers have called on states, municipalities and other local actors to hasten their pace distributing the aid as hundreds of thousands are expected to face eviction in the months ahead.

In an interview earlier this month, Abby Boshart, a policy coordinator in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute, said distributing the aid has been “really difficult” for local governments.

“It’s important to highlight that these local actors have really done tremendous work to develop these programs,” she said. “This funding didn’t come through HUD, or housing authorities, who typically distribute rental assistance and have experience doing so.”

At the same time, Congress has also faced pressure to pass legislation enacting a moratorium after the Supreme Court said a move to do so would require an act of the Legislature. However, lawmakers have struggled to make progress on the issue, given the Democrats’ narrow majorities in both chambers.

During the call on Monday, Pelosi reiterated that the House will have to work with the Senate, where Democrats need to notch at least 10 votes from Republicans to pass legislation, in order advance a bill addressing the matter. 

“We have to work with the Senate on what can pass the Senate and the muster of the parliamentarian in light of the filibuster rules and the rest of that,” she said, signaling Democrats may have to make concessions in upcoming negotiations as Congress tackles the issue.

“We can’t pass it in the Senate,” Pelosi said. “So, what we want to do is let’s get results where we can.”

Tags Evictions Housing Maxine Waters Nancy Pelosi
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