Housing advocates say more stimulus is needed for rental assistance

Posted at 10:12 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 23:12:58-05

(LEX 18) — During the months-long stalemate in negotiations on Capitol Hill—as millions of Americans were falling into poverty—housing advocacy groups had been pushing for a stimulus package that included $100 billion in rental assistance.

The finalized agreement to provide relief to struggling Americans ended up including $25 billion in rental assistance, as well as an extension of the CDC's eviction moratorium. The relief package could be signed into law as soon as Monday night.

"It's a good down payment," said Whitney Reynolds, the director of development and grants management with the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky. "While Leader [Mitch] McConnell works on maybe more comprehensive solutions for what we're facing right now."

Reynolds said Kentucky is poised to get at least $290 million in rental assistance, which will help keep people in their homes in the middle of winter.

The extension of the federal moratorium also helps avert a major housing crisis, but she hopes President-elect Joe Biden will sign an executive order on the first day of his presidency to extend it for several months.

"Coronavirus isn't going to be gone in a month," Reynolds said. "We know that folks are behind in rent."

In the meantime, she said, landlords are trying to find loopholes in the moratorium.

"We've seen tenants that come to the end of their leases," Reynolds said. "And landlords not giving the option to re-up that lease."

The moratorium forbids landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment, but a tenant can still be evicted for other reasons.

Beau Revlett, an organizer with the Lexington Housing Justice Collective, told LEX 18 that he has spoken with tenants who have been evicted under the guise of having committed minor violations.

"[A woman] was a little behind on rent," he recounted. "The landlord found out he couldn't evict her for that so then he decided to evict her because her son was living with her, but he wasn't on the lease."

The woman, whose son is in his 20s, is now homeless, he said.

Revlett said he is grateful for the rental assistance in the latest stimulus package but doubts it will be a panacea to the problem.

"We will see if the amount that's coming will be adequate," he said. "And I think another concern is even if it is enough money, it may not reach the tenants in time because people are being evicted right now."