Hearing Witnesses Urge Equitable Distribution of Federal Rental Assistance, Highlight Extent of Corporate Landlord Evictions
Washington, D.C. (July 27, 2021)—Today, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, held a hearing to assess evictions carried out by corporate landlords during the coronavirus pandemic and the distribution of federal emergency rental assistance awarded through the American Rescue Plan. During the hearing, witnesses and Members of the Select Subcommittee discussed the economic burden placed on families due to unnecessary eviction and identified actions needed to prevent a housing crisis.
Chairman Clyburn said in his opening statement:
“Even as the American economy continues its recovery, 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 in the midst of this pandemic.”
The hearing follows the launch of the Select Subcommittee’s investigation on July 20, 2021, into four corporate landlords—Invitation Homes, Pretium Partners, Ventron Management, and The Siegel Group—in order to assess their cooperation with rental assistance programs and compliance with the CDC eviction moratorium.
Today’s hearing featured testimony from Jim Baker, Executive Director, Private Equity Stakeholder Project; Katrina Chism, Affected Renter, Georgia; Diane Yentel, Executive Director, National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC); Rene Solis, Chief Program Officer, BakerRipley, Houston, TX; and Joel Griffith, Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation Roe Institute.
Members and witnesses discussed the following related topics during the hearing:
The Economic Crisis Caused by the Pandemic Has Made Many Renters Vulnerable to Eviction, Often Exacerbating Existing Inequalities
- In response to a question from Rep. Nydia Velazquez on how pandemic eviction filings are impacting communities of color and vulnerable populations, Ms. Yentel said: “The pandemic has certainly exacerbated preexisting inequities for people of color. Pre-pandemic, due to decades of systemic racism in multiple systems, people of color are disproportionately likely to be renters, to be extremely low income, to be behind on rent, to be experiencing homelessness.”
Corporate Landlords Have Had a Disproportionate Impact on Vulnerable Tenants
- Mr. Baker testified: “Private equity firms and other corporate landlords have filed to evict at least 75,000 residents since the Trump administration put a moratorium in place to halt evictions last September, which has since been extended by Congress and the Biden administration. These filings have disproportionately impacted residents of color, particularly Black renters. In some cases, corporate landlords have refused to accept rental assistance even after their residents have been approved for it.”
- Ms. Chism described her experience being forced out of her home by one of the corporate landlords currently under investigation by the Select Subcommittee: “The fear of homelessness became a reality for me. I was very concerned that my son and I would have nowhere to go but to a shelter. I was concerned about our health because of the pandemic, and I was concerned about his school and how he would be affected.” She added, “I had never faced this type of stress before and I had no idea what I was going to be able to do with little income and no home.”
Congress and the Biden Administration Have Taken Unprecedented Action to Provide Rental Assistance Funds, and States are Increasing Distribution of Funds
- Mr. Solis reaffirmed the critical nature of funding provided through the American Rescue Plan and other legislation, stating: “This funding is critical because it allows so many vulnerable Americans to remain in their homes.”
- Ms. Yentel said that guidance issued by the Trump Administration on its last day in office, January 19, 2021, “created new and unnecessary barriers that increased application times, discouraged eligible households from seeking assistance, and prevented states and localities from spending resources in a timely manner.” She explained that revised guidance issued by the Biden-Harris Administration in February 2021 “directly addressed the significant flaws in the previous Administration’s guidance.”
Rental Assistance Helps Both Renters and Landlords
- In response to a question from Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi regarding whether landlords are still paid during eviction moratoria, Ms. Yentel said: “Rent is still due when people are under the eviction moratorium. In fact, the declaratory statement that tenants need to sign in order to get the benefit of the federal eviction moratorium makes clear that they need to still do all that they can to pay the rent and many renters have.”
- Mr. Solis explained that an effective program he has participated in recognizes “that both the landlord and the tenant play a valuable role in the distribution of rental assistance funds. The program has to work for both parties while keeping people in their homes.”
The CDC Eviction Moratorium Extensions Have Protected Many Renters and Slowed the Spread of the Coronavirus
- Ms. Yentel testified that the moratorium was crucial to keeping American families in their homes: “The CDC eviction moratorium, generally speaking, has kept tens of millions of renters who otherwise would have lost their homes stably housed and there was research from the eviction lab that showed that there were at least 1.5 million fewer evictions under the federal eviction moratorium than otherwise would have occurred.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Bill Foster, Ms. Yentel made clear that the CDC moratorium saved lives: “[I]ncreased evictions lead to increased spread of and deaths from COVID-19.” She explained that “when very low or extremely low-income people lose their homes, they have very few options available to them so they most often double or triple up into overcrowded housing or they end up in encampments or congregate shelters,” and that this makes them “especially vulnerable to severe illness or deaths if they contract COVID-19.”