July 16, 2020

Advocates, Experts Praise Harris’ RELIEF Act Protecting Renters and Homeowners Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday announced the Rent Emergencies Leave Impacts on Evicted Families (RELIEF) Act, legislation that keeps renters and homeowners in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The RELIEF Act bans evictions and foreclosures for a year; prevents utility shutoffs and negative credit reporting; prohibits rent increases; and expands legal protections for borrowers and renters.

The proposal received praise from a number of advocates:

"This package will go a long way towards ensuring we do not repeat the mistakes of the last crisis when millions of families were displaced and wealth was transferred from Black and BIPOC communities to private equity, Wall Street and REIT purchasers of foreclosed homes. We need strong protections for homeowners, tenants and mom and pop landlords, we need to track such efforts so that relief finally reaches the hardest hit communities, and we need community control of distressed and foreclosed properties. We thank Senator Harris for taking these important steps," said Kevin Stein, Deputy Director, California Reinvestment Coalition.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is both a public health emergency and economic crisis unlike anything we have seen in this country in decades and Black people are being disproportionately impacted on both fronts. In the midst of this pandemic, as state and local moratoriums end, we are facing the possibility of an eviction catastrophe. We need immediate action to implement a national moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.  No family should be concerned about losing their home during this pandemic,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF).

“With the RELIEF Act, Senator Harris demonstrates the scope of the housing crisis that existed before the pandemic, that has been exacerbated by the crisis, and that will follow this moment in U.S. history if we don’t make significant systemic change. She also demonstrates that we can begin the work. The Relief Act, as outlined in the section by section, along with a number of bills currently before Congress, will make great strides toward housing stability for vulnerable Americans,” said Shamus Roller, Executive Director, National Housing Law Project.

“For those families impacted by COVID-19, housing should be their least worry. We support efforts to protect homeowners and renters from eviction and foreclosure while also providing liquidity to mortgage servicers and landlords on federally-backed mortgages. We will need some time for dislocated renters, homeowners, to get back on their feet.  We applaud Senator Harris’ intent and legislative direction,” said Faith Schwartz, President, Housing Finance Strategies.

“As the pandemic continues to shine a light on long-standing disparities, we continue to see how housing is not treated as a right for all Americans. We need legislation like the RELIEF Act to make sure that people can keep a roof over their heads. It contains critical solutions like banning evictions and foreclosures, rent increases, and utility shutoffs while protecting tenants, providing housing counseling, and holding bad landlords accountable. Senator Harris’s legislation shows a strong commitment to equity and social justice in housing; it’s something every senator should support,” said Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League.