1 1 (June 25, 2020)

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               Research Service

Federal Housing Policy Responses

to   COVID-19

Updated June 25, 2020

The COVID-  19 global pandemic and resulting economic recession presents many housing challenges,
ranging from public health concerns about large populations of unsheltered homeless individuals to the
impact of rising unemployment on housing stability. Housing in the United States is primarily a private
market function regulated at the state and local level, and states and local governments have implemented
a variety of housing policy responses to the pandemic. However, there has been demand for federal action
to supplement and support those efforts. In response, the federal government increased its funding for
housing programs and made policy changes to protect renters and homeowners and support other housing
market participants. In addition to housing-specific interventions, policies such as one-tirme relief
payments to individuals, federal increases to Unemployment Insurance (1L1), and some fiscal relief to
states and localities may be used directly or indirectly for housing needs.
Despite these actions, significant housing challenges remain. For example, according to Census data,
during the last full week of May 18% of renters and 12% of owners reported having not made the current
month's housing payment, with larger shares (33% and 16%) expecting not to pay the following month.
Thus, there have been calls for further federal action to address outstanding housing challenges related to
homelessness, the stability of renters and owners, the economic health of landlords and lenders, and the
overall health of housing markets. Numerous bills have been introduced to provide additional resources or
make other housing policy changes, including the Heroes Act, which recently passed the House. Heroes
Act housing provisions are included in a separate bill, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act
of 2020 (H.R. 7301).

Increased Funding for Housing Programs

The CARES  Act appropriated an additional S12.4 billion for HU) housing programs in FY2020. Some
funds are to maintain existing rental assistance-including through the public housing, Housing Choice
Voucher, and project-based Section 8 programs-as tenant income decreases lead to program cost
increases. Other funds-such as for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and Community Development
Block Grants (CDBG)-are  additional resources to address conditions created by the pandemic. ESG
funds are meant to help communities address homelessness through shelter and rental assistance during

                                                               Congressional Research Service
                                                                                    INI 1424

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