Key Takeaways from White House Eviction Reform Summit

Washington DC The White House Shutterstock_104517125 The White House hosted a first of its kind virtual Eviction Reform Summit in early August so here is a summary from the National Apartment Association (NAA).

The White House and the United States Department of the Treasury hosted the White House Summit on Building Lasting Eviction Prevention Reform in early August.

The White House invited federal, state and local policymakers, as well as community advocates, to share feedback on strategies for limiting evictions in the U.S. rental housing market. Discussion also formed around building consensus on how excess American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, including emergency rental assistance (ERA) dollars, can further efforts in eviction prevention. Notably missing from the summit’s panelists were representatives from the housing industry.

During the summit, chief justices from the Michigan and New Mexico supreme courts discussed court-based reforms in their states that have resulted in positive outcomes for renters facing eviction. Michigan renters were among the first to receive eviction protections for those with pending ERA applications. In New Mexico, the court-ordered eviction-diversion program required, among several provisions, a mandatory extension of lease terms if a housing provider accepted rental assistance. Both speakers highlighted the significant role that courts have played in COVID-19-related policy and the undeniable role they will play in determining future policy solutions.

Policymakers also offered a high-level examination of the programs halting evictions in cities around the country, highlighting the impact of eviction diversion and right-to-counsel programs. In Philadelphia, 85 percent of eviction cases resulted in settlement or agreement to continue negotiations in part due to the city’s diversion program. The city of Cleveland reported that right-to-counsel prevented 93 percent of eviction judgments in cases between August 2021 and March 2022, while Chicago suggests that more than 3,000 renters will benefit from its own $8 million right-to-counsel pilot program, funded through available ERA money.

While these models for eviction reform suggest promising outcomes for renters, they are merely solutions that target symptoms of housing stability, rather than the source. Policymakers must focus on addressing the financial insecurity experienced by so many renters through funding emergency rental-assistance programs and increasing investment in housing vouchers. These means-tested solutions ensure that those most at risk for housing displacement have access to the resources necessary to remain in housing. Simply put, these types of solutions prevent evictions.

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Throughout the summit, the speakers reinforced the idea that because of the protections put in place by federal, state and local governments, the “tsunami of evictions” never occurred. The “tsunami” argument was used by many advocate groups to push for longer, more stringent eviction moratoriums  across the country. It is critical to remember that housing providers, working in tandem with their residents and acting in compliance with applicable regulation, bore the responsibility of keeping their communities housed, healthy and safe throughout the pandemic, all the while shouldering lost revenue, deferred maintenance and burdensome moratoriums.

Source: Rental Housing Journal