Senators: “having a roof over your head is essential for Americans’ abilities to stay safe and healthy”
BIRMINGHAM – As the coronavirus pandemic continues to put many Americans in danger of falling behind on monthly rent payments, U.S. Senators Doug Jones of Alabama and Jon Tester of Montana today led a group of their colleagues in urging the Trump Administration to enforce bans on housing evictions for the duration of the crisis.
In a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria, Senator Jones and his colleagues wrote that an estimated 32 percent of renters were unable to make payments this month, and that despite a ban on evictions for renters in federally-subsidized housing, some tenants have still been unlawfully evicted during the pandemic.
Alabama renters face significant housing cost burdens as a share of their incomes. The state ranks third in the nation for its share of renter households earning less than $15,000 per year, making it uniquely vulnerable to instability in the job market and the economy. Compounding these challenges, Alabama also faces a shortage in affordable housing and minimal tenant protections.
“As you know, the CARES Act created temporary protections from eviction for millions of tenants who live in properties with federally-backed mortgages or that receive certain types of federal housing assistance,” wrote Senator Jones and his colleagues. “During a time when having a roof over your head is essential for Americans’ abilities to stay safe and healthy, Congress insisted that these safeguards be put in place to help those at risk of losing their housing in the midst of the public health and economic crises. These protections, as well as all tenant protections available under federal, state, and local law, must be honored and enforced.”
Several states – including Alabama – have allowed landlords to move forward with eviction proceedings, despite the mandated temporary protections for renters established under the CARES Act. Senator Jones and his colleagues urged the Administration to help renters understand what protections they have under the CARES Act, and to take proactive steps to ensure compliance with rules that prohibit evictions during the crisis.
“During this pandemic, when it is dangerous for individuals to even be required to appear in a court room, it is troubling that some renters have been unlawfully removed from their homes in violation of the clear protections of the CARES Act,” the senators continued.“As evictions continue to rise, more must be done to ensure these protections are adhered to and any violations are immediately addressed, otherwise the repercussions will be severely felt by millions of the most vulnerable Americans, including elderly and low-income renters and many essential workers.”