Senate HEALS Act Misses the Mark for Families; Leaves Them At Risk of Losing Their Homes
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 31, 2020
Contact: Izzy Woodruff | 202-898-1661 | IWoodruff@nationalfairhousing.org
Washington, D.C. — As COVID-19 crisis continues to wreak havoc on American families, it is appalling that the Senate GOP proposal, unveiled on Monday, is devoid of meaningful provisions to protect people from losing their homes. Having a stable home is the best defense against this public health crisis because staying home is the best protection against this coronavirus. Additionally, families need their homes to be able to rebuild and recover from the economic devastation created by the pandemic. The HEALS Act shields corporations from liability, but fails to provide the protections from evictions and foreclosures that families desperately need.
It is absolutely critical for the well-being of families, communities and the economy that homes are protected. Congress needs to enact measures to protect homeowners and renters, including the following mortgage protections, which our organizations have been advocating:
Providing temporary payment relief to homeowners facing a financial hardship due to COVID-19 that interferes with the ability to make mortgage payments, regardless of whether the loan is federally-backed;
Placing a temporary moratorium on foreclosures and similar actions while a homeowner is in forbearance or seeking post-forbearance repayment arrangements;
Requiring that all homeowners, regardless of mortgage loan type, be offered an opportunity to resume regular payments, or obtain a more affordable payment where needed, after a temporary payment halt and before any foreclosure begins;
Requiring that homeowners who are at least 60 days late on their mortgage payments be provided an automatic forbearance;
Ensuring that all homeowners receive notice of their options if they are facing a COVID-19 hardship, including in-language communications for borrowers with limited English proficiency and information about housing counseling;
Enacting policies that encourage the mortgage industry to offer broad access to safe and affordable credit;
Establishing a mortgage assistance fund to help homeowners who need emergency financial assistance to stay in their homes;
Requiring borrowers with tenants to provide tenants with notice of protections against eviction that are tied to their type of housing or landlord’s mortgage forbearance; and
Providing tenants with the ability to identify what tenant protections apply to them based on their landlord’s mortgage
Provide rental assistance to prevent devastating wide scale evictions.
“The exclusion of meaningful housing assistance in the HEALS Act at this precarious time for American families is appalling and disappointing,” says Linda Jun, Senior Policy Counsel at Americans for Financial Reform. “Facing a worsening crisis, the HEALS Act leaves millions of families in America at risk of foreclosure and evictions, which would be terrible at any time, and particularly devastating in this pandemic. The bill provides next to nothing in terms of the bare-minimum of housing protections.”
“We must take seriously the threat this pandemic poses to individual homeowners and renters, especially those in communities of color hit hardest by COVID-19, and to the entire housing market,” said Alys Cohen, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. “By providing no meaningful housing relief at this crucial time, the HEALS Act fails to prevent unnecessary foreclosures and evictions and the devastation to communities that will follow. This is unjust and wrong.”
“After months of inaction to further respond to the struggles working families are facing due to COVID-19, Leader McConnell’s proposal is an embarrassment. It is a morally deficient response that will cost additional lives, increase evictions, and delay our economic recovery. Congress needs to drastically step up for the people working on the frontlines and bearing the brunt of this crisis. Having a place to call home is a human right, and no one should have to worry about keeping a roof over their heads during a global pandemic.” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“The Senate Republicans are playing around while people are losing their homes. The answer is simple: a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and rental assistance to help landlords and tenants. It couldn’t be plainer,” said Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project.
There can be no question that communities of color in the United States, especially African American and Latinx communities, have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior VP for Policy and Advocacy. “These challenges have come on the heels of the devastating 2008 recession, when our communities also disproportionately experienced foreclosure, displacement, and approximately half of African American home owners lost our homes and wealth, from which many families had yet to recover. All indicators point to the upcoming foreclosure crisis among African American and Latinx homeowners in a manner which will make 2008 look like a dip in a wading pool, unless Congress and federal housing agencies move quickly to head it off. We need actions to responsibly stop these foreclosures before they begin. It is time we recognize that these homeowners are a vital segment of the consumers who will help our economy regain its strength.”
“With no new protections for homeowners and renters who have lost their incomes during the pandemic, millions are at risk of losing their homes and eviction at precisely the moment when home is the safest place to be,” said Jesse Van Tol, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. “The economic damage from a housing collapse would sink the economy into an even deeper hole. Why would lawmakers even entertain that, or use the fear of family ruin as leverage to get something else into a bill that is urgently needed in the middle of a crisis? The pandemic itself isn’t contained, the best defense is social distancing and staying at home, and even toying with the idea that millions of people should lose their homes is beyond belief. It’s irresponsible.”
“Our nation’s ability to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic is dependent on how well we protect people’s ability to remain safely and stably housed. The absence of meaningful protections for renters and homeowners in the HEALS Act is a dereliction of Senator McConnell’s duty to stand up for America’s families. This failure to act is especially harmful to communities of color which have been hit the hardest by COVID-19 due to longstanding structural inequities that have limited their access to testing sites, clean environments, living wage jobs, and healthy food options. Congress must move swiftly to address these issues, and an important step in doing so is to insert a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions and include provisions to ensure people can remain in their homes through the crisis,” said Debby Goldberg, Vice President of Housing Policy and Special Projects at the National Fair Housing Alliance.