President-elect Joseph Biden unveiled a nearly $2 trillion stimulus relief package late yesterday afternoon, less than a week before he is set to be inaugurated as the country’s new commander-in-chief. The proposed legislation includes several measures that will have an impact on the multifamily industry, including billions toward emergency rental assistance, an issue industry leaders have focused on for months.
The $1.9 trillion package, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, proposes $350 billion in state and local government aid, $170 billion for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, $50 billion toward COVID-19 testing, $20 billion for a national vaccine program in partnership with states, localities and tribes, and increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Measures impacting multifamily
Several measures within the proposed relief bill have a big impact on renters and the multifamily industry. They include:
- Extending the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums through the end of September
- $30 billion in emergency rental and utility assistance
- $1,400 stimulus checks for qualifying adults
- Increasing federal, weekly unemployment benefits to $400 through the end of September
- $5 billion in emergency assistance for people experiencing homelessness
Additionally, the proposal would further expand unemployment insurance benefits, provide a 15 percent increase in food assistance programs like SNAP, and increase the Child Tax Credit.
More relief needed
As news of the proposed bill reached the housing industry, some organizations were quick to praise the measures included that would provide much-needed relief to renters struggling financially, while others had mixed reactions.
“All of these resources and protections are badly and urgently needed,” tweeted Diane Yentel, the president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. She added that there is still more needed from the government “to ensure housing stability” for low-income renters and those experiencing homelessness.
In a statement to Multi-Housing News, the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Cindy Chetti, said that the organization is in the process of reviewing President-elect Biden’s relief proposal.
“While we are encouraged by the additional $25 billion in rental assistance and other important supports including extended unemployment benefits and additional stimulus checks, we are seriously concerned with a potential extension of the national eviction moratorium,” said Chetti.
The proposed relief bill comes less than a month after President Trump signed a $900 billion relief package into law Dec. 27. The bill allocated $25 billion to an emergency rent relief fund, sent $600 stimulus checks to most Americans, extended the eviction moratorium until the end of January, and added an additional $300 a week to unemployment benefits, among other measures.
READ ALSO: January Rent Collections Hit 77 Percent
News of the proposed legislation also came on the same day that an industry trade group representing owners of more than 400,000 rent-stabilized apartment units in New York City said renters owed an estimated $1.1 billion in rent arrears. The Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP) released the results of a survey of its members yesterday which found that 19.4 percent of apartment renters in the city are more than two months behind in rent.
According to CHIP’s survey, the average renter owes around $6,173—about four-and-a-half months rent. The figure is a more than 300 percent increase from last February, when 6.1 percent of rent-stabilized residents were more than two months in arrears.
“We have a clear blueprint to protect renters from eviction and the housing system from collapse. The government needs to pay the rent for those who can’t afford it,” said Jay Martin, executive director of CHIP, in prepared remarks.
While last month’s stimulus relief package was a sigh of relief for both landlord and renter advocates, worries about back rent were still top of mind. NMHC’s Caitlin Sugrue Walter told Multi-Housing News late last month that the $25 billion in emergency rental assistance included in the legislation was “a fraction” of what was needed to make up an estimated $70 billion in back rent nationwide, especially in light of rent collection numbers that have been slowly trending downward.