Chairman Clyburn’s Opening Remarks at Hearing on Pandemic Evictions by Corporate Landlords and Status of Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Programs

Jul 27, 2021
Press Release
Washington, D.C. (July 27, 2021)— Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, delivered the following opening statement at the Subcommittee’s hearing on “Oversight of Pandemic Evictions: Assessing Abuses by Corporate Landlords and Federal Efforts to Keep Americans in Their Homes.”
 
Today’s hearing is part of the Select Subcommittee’s investigation into four corporate landlord companies—Invitation Homes, Pretium Partners, Ventron Management, and The Siegel Group—who have together filed for over 5,000 evictions during the pandemic.  Court records and reports have called into question their compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium and their cooperation with rental assistance programs.
 
 
Opening Remarks (as delivered):
 
We are here today to discuss an issue of the utmost importance: ensuring that the coronavirus pandemic, which has already resulted in the loss of life for more than 600,000 Americans, does not result in the loss of stable homes for millions more. As the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the nation, millions of Americans lost their jobs and faced significant challenges making ends meet. For these Americans, one of the most pressing challenges has been ensuring that the loss of a job did not also mean the loss of a roof over their family’s heads.
 
Even as the American economy continues to recover, millions of American families still live in fear of falling behind on their rent and being forced from their homes.  Adding to this fear are the aggressive and unjustified eviction practices by some landlords.  I am deeply troubled by reports that many large corporate landlords have been aggressively and unfairly attempting to remove thousands of Americans from their homes during this pandemic.
 
Court records show that multiple large corporate landlords—some of whom control tens of thousands of rental units—have moved to evict large numbers of their tenants over the course of the pandemic despite the CDC eviction moratorium and the availability of rental assistance funds.  One large landlord, for example, has filed to evict over 2,000 tenants during the pandemic, totaling over a quarter of that company’s tenants.  Evictions by corporate landlords have been particularly widespread in minority communities.
 
In view of this information, the Select Subcommittee has initiated an investigation into some of the large corporate landlords alleged to be engaged in these practices.  This investigation will seek to find out whether these large landlords are refusing to cooperate with rental assistance programs and attempting to force families out of their homes, unfairly and needlessly.
 
Let me be clear: the aggressive actions of these large corporate landlords are unacceptable. They must stop—immediately.
 
These evictions are especially unacceptable because they are unnecessary.  Congress has taken action to ensure that renters experiencing hardship can receive financial help to stay in their homes.  Of course, the ultimate recipients of these funds are the landlords to whom rent is paid.
 
To date, Congress has appropriated over 46 billion dollars in emergency rental assistance—including 21.5 billion dollars from the American Rescue Act—so that families affected by the pandemic can pay their rent and stay in their homes.  These funds are being distributed through state and local governments, who know their communities and housing challenges best.
 
The Biden-Harris Administration has acted aggressively to protect renters from eviction.  Taking a “whole-of-government” approach to preventing an eviction crisis, the Administration has worked to speed up the distribution of rental assistance funds by states and localities, warned large landlords of their duty to inform tenants of their rights under the CDC moratorium, and urged state courts to divert eviction cases to rental assistance programs to keep people in their homes.
 
The Biden-Harris Administration has also pushed state and local governments to distribute funds effectively, efficiently, and equitably.  While some are still having challenges, several states and localities have done an excellent job in distributing rental relief funds.
 
In Texas, the City of Houston and Harris County have distributed over 137 million dollars in rental relief funds to over 36,000 families.  Virginia has distributed over 220 million dollars in assistance funds, aiding nearly 33,000 households. And in Kentucky, the Louisville-Jefferson County rental assistance program has disbursed over 22 million dollars to aid 4,300 households.
 
All states and localities should follow these successful examples and adopt best practices for distributing aid, and landlords must work with tenants and rental assistance programs to avoid needless evictions.
 
The distribution of assistance nationwide is rapidly increasing.  Rental assistance funds helped 85,000 households from January to March, 100,000 in April, 160,000 in May, and 290,000 in June. The distribution of funds in June was greater than all previous months combined, and I am confident that this progress is continuing.
 
When the House returns to session following the August district work period, we plan to invite Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to testify on the implementation of this and all the essential relief programs established by Congress through the American Rescue Plan and previous coronavirus response legislation that are being administered by her department.  I look forward to that hearing and I’m hopeful the Secretary’s schedule will allow her to appear before us, and I know from his recent public statements that the Ranking Member does as well.
 
It is equally important that the Select Subcommittee hear from today’s witnesses, who bring a wealth of knowledge and important perspectives on this issue. I look forward to hearing from each of them about the challenges we face.
 
As Americans continue to get vaccinated and our economy continues to improve, we must work together to prevent the pandemic from precipitating an eviction crisis.  Congress has already taken action to ensure that American families are not evicted from their homes.  We must ensure that the law is followed and the rental assistance funds that Congress provided are accessible to all who need them.
 
I now yield to the Ranking Member for his opening statement.
 
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117th Congress