Housing providers are doing everything they can, but a long-term solution is needed during COVID-19
COVID-19 represents a complete shock to Washington’s vital systems, infrastructure, and institutions. The virus is testing our world-class healthcare workers, it’s putting people and employers’ health and livelihood at great risk, and it’s shining an even brighter light on Washington’s pre-existing rental housing crisis.
Right now, we must all work together to beat this virus and support each other while strengthening our institutions and safety nets.
For our part, rental housing providers were among the first to call for a ban on physical evictions in King County which was the hardest hit by COVID-19. A week later, the King County Sheriff heeded the call. We are asking all housing providers to waive late fees, waive administrative costs, and work with residents on payment plans to assist renters experiencing financial hardship. We are sharing rental assistance resources with the community and housing providers to help residents keep up with housing costs.
Together we need to make sure that renters can access the resources that are available to them in the community through federal, state, local, private and non-profit rental assistance programs.
Eviction Bans Cut Off Access to Vital Renter Assistance
Governor Inslee ordered a statewide ban on all eviction filings for 30 days. The moratorium may support short-term housing stability, but puts the full cost of operating rental homes, apartments, and communities on housing providers who are responsible for covering taxes, apartment community staff, and the mortgage payment. All of which are all necessary to keep homes safe and on the market. It also places the burden on the renter to make two months or more rent in the future.
Accessing emergency rental assistance requires an official notice to the tenant that they owe rent. Under a blanket eviction ban, these funds are not available because the moratorium prohibits the service of the notice notifying the tenant that rent is due. This is why we called for a hold on physical evictions, not a ban on serving a notice. The moratorium means renters cannot access rental assistance and will accrue month-after-month of debt that will come due once the ban lifts.
We are prepared to take the necessary steps to fulfill our role as housing providers and help keep people in their homes. But this order lays bare the patchwork and incomplete rental safety net which relies on individual landlords to cover rent, pay utilities, and repair property damage. Meanwhile, the eviction ban limits access to rental assistance and puts renters at risk of increasing debt once the ban is lifted.
Help for Residents and Housing Now
Deputizing housing providers as rental assistance providers is not sustainable for renters or for landlords.
We need comprehensive rental assistance now for residents unable to pay housing costs and immediate relief for their housing providers who have taxes and mortgage payments coming due. We cannot allow critical rental homes to go into foreclosure during this crisis, putting Washington’s already stretched housing supply at greater risk.
We are calling on leaders at all level of government to:
- Provide robust investment in rental assistance programs to support renters in need – before they miss a rent payment and fall into debt.
- Delay the payment of property taxes to allow housing providers to invest in and support the residents during this time of uncertainty.
- Institute mortgage forbearance that lasts as long as eviction moratoriums to assist owners of homes and apartments where tenants are unable to cover the cost of rent.
Together, we can keep people in their homes during this crisis and come out of it even stronger.