Speaker Pelosi talks about housing assistance during the pandemic

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Photo by Bruce Detorres on flickr.com

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addressed affordable housing advocates and low-income renters this week in a webinar hosted by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). During the call, Pelosi laid out the emergency housing measures recently passed by the House, and discussed next steps on affordable housing and coronavirus relief. 

Speaker Pelosi said that her interest in affordable housing was inspired by her mother. When the Speaker’s father was mayor of Baltimore, her mother was a strong advocate for affordable housing. The Speaker also talked about working on housing issues from the early days of her congressional career. Highlighting the current housing crisis, she said the cost of housing in her home district in San Francisco “is an obscenity.”

Pelosi also mentioned that millions of low-income families were just one financial emergency away from homelessness before the pandemic. She said that this public health crisis is the financial emergency that tips many people over.

The Speaker talked about the housing assistance that was included in the HEROES Act. The House recently passed this legislation to follow up on the stimulus funding provided by the CARES Act in March. 

The HEROES Act would provide individuals with another $1,200 stimulus check and extend the federal enhanced unemployment benefits through January. But Speaker Pelosi also pointed out that it had about $200 billion for affordable housing needs during the pandemic, and included a national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.

Speaker Pelosi stressed the importance of $100 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance included in the HEROES Act. The legislation was originally introduced by Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Denny Heck (D-WA). Pelosi said that polling showed 90% of Americans supported Emergency Rental Assistance and an eviction moratorium during the pandemic.

The Speaker observed that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said we need a pause before pushing for more aid. She said that we need to deliver rent relief now. And she repeated this phrase often during her talk.

Pelosi feels that public pressure is having an effect, with some Republicans more open to working on some kind of stimulus package. Because emergency rental assistance is so popular, it could get the support of some Republicans. The more people call their senators, the more likely Emergency Rental Assistance will make it into the next stimulus bill. She also said that it is especially important for Republican senators to hear from voters concerned about emergency rental assistance.

National Low Income Housing Coalition logo. Image by nlihc.org

When asked about Senate Republicans’ desire to wait until the end of August to pass a stimulus bill, Pelosi replied that August is out of the question. She again echoed that people need rent relief now.

The Speaker also had some updates about what is coming up next in the House of Representatives. She said that affordable housing will be an important piece of the big infrastructure bill House Democrats are working on. It will include money for the Public Housing Capital Fund and the Housing Trust Fund. 

The Public Housing Capital Fund pays for major renovations and repairs in Public Housing. It covers roof and boiler replacements, energy efficient windows, health and safety improvements like new fire alarm and sprinkler systems, and accessibility features like ramps and rails. The Housing Trust Fund finances new construction and preservation of housing affordable to those with the lowest incomes.

This webinar was one of the weekly calls hosted by the NLIHC for affordable housing advocates and low-income renters that provides updates on housing issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. NLIHC also hosts additional calls each week with a more in-depth focus. These include calls on the progress of legislation and calls specifically for low-income renters to discuss their housing challenges.

NLIHC staff noted that this is the last major coronavirus package that will likely pass before the November elections. A national moratorium on evictions is essential so that people do not lose their homes in the middle of a pandemic. Emergency rental assistance is also critical to keep renters and landlords whole during this crisis. Without these two measures, the nation risks a rolling wave of evictions and rising homelessness.

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