US

The deluge of evictions predicted with the end of the pandemic moratorium never happened, but the COVID rent relief is running out

The flood of evictions of many housing advocates scheduled after the the moratorium on evictions has been lifted in court last summer did not materialize. Officials point to multiple efforts to help millions of people stay in their homes, including the $46 billion in rent assistance channeled through state and local governments, which accounted for more than 4.7 million payments for helping people avoid evictions during the pandemic.

But most of that money will be used by the middle of this year, according to Treasury Department officials. Despite a slow start last year, officials said Wednesday that about $30 billion in emergency rental assistance had been spent or committed by the end of February.

President Biden signaled that affordable housing was a top priority with his 2023 budget proposal unveiled earlier this week, but the money for measures to increase affordable housing is in the hands of Congress.

According to Princeton University’s eviction lab, eviction requests remain well below normal pre-pandemic levels. Their researchers suggested that this could be partly due to emergency rental assistance. Treasury Department data showed more than 80% of rental assistance was delivered to very low-income households last year and many of those recipients were people of color and women.

When emergency rental assistance money was included as part of the COVID relief measures passed by Congress in late 2020 and early 2021, the United States had no national infrastructure. to help people in arrears with rent avoid being evicted. Federal, state and local authorities across the country have had to scramble to put programs in place.

This “has helped keep eviction rates well below historical averages throughout the pandemic,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said.

As the money dries up, officials are pushing for state and local governments to use other federal funds to help struggling tenants and to support other housing efforts. The U.S. bailout included $350 billion for state and local governments that can help with the effort, officials said.

As of the end of 2021, some $11 billion in funding has already been committed to housing efforts, from rental and mortgage assistance and eviction prevention efforts to affordable housing.

“We hope this will both support sustainable eviction prevention infrastructure and provide a springboard for much-needed investment in affordable housing supply,” said Jacob Leibenluft, director of recovery at the Treasury.

Leibenluft noted that using the money to increase affordable housing has been a major area of ​​focus for state, local and tribal governments across the country, from cities to rural communities. By the end of last year, more than 350 governments had invested state and local stimulus funds in housing – a figure that is expected to rise this year.

This comes as the cost of rent is on the rise across the country. The average monthly rent asking by landlords in January was up 15.2% from a year ago, according to a Redfin report. The national median monthly mortgage payment for homebuyers rose 25%, the biggest increase on Redfin’s record.

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