Lamont extends ban on tenant evictions, adds housing aid
Tenants, homeowners and residential landlords will share at least $33 million in state and federal grants to avoid evictions and foreclosures, Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Monday. The program also includes extending the governor’s executive order on evictions, set to expire July 1, through the month of August.
The moves were meant to address a coronavirus-inflicted crisis as Lamont’s stay on evictions expires Tuesday, and also make a dent in longer term housing issues.
But a co-chairman of the General Assembly’s Housing Committee, Democratic state Sen. Saud Anwar, questioned whether the funding is enough in Connecticut, which he called “the most-segregated in New England.”
Elements of the governor’s housing assistance plan include:
• A $10 million rental assistance program through the state Department of Housing for residents impacted by COVID-19, to pay landlords on behalf of approved tenant applicants, with a priority on low-income households who have been denied unemployment insurance;
• $5 million in eviction-prevention funding to help renters who were in eviction proceedings before the coronavirus emergency was declared in March.
• $10 million in mortgage relief to homeowners who have suffered impacts from COVID-19, including the loss of jobs, whose mortgages are not federally insured.
• $4 million to help homeless people afford initial rent and security deposits.
• $2.5 million in rental assistance program for people, including the undocumented foreign-born, who are ineligible for emergency assistance through the federal CARES Act.
• $1.8 million in funding for reentry and rehousing assistance for those leaving the state’s prison system.
• Extending the residential eviction moratorium to August 25; and extending the option for renters to apply a portion of their security deposits toward rent.
Source: Gov. Ned Lamont; state Department of Housing
“We know that some renters and homeowners are having a hard time paying the costs of their housing,” Lamont said in a written statement Monday morning. “It’s critical that we provide emergency help so that they can stay housed, and to support residential landlords, many of who are mom-and-pop small businesses themselves.”
During his late-afternoon news conference, Lamont said he would announce more funding for rental assistance later in the week. “We’ll be working with landlords so the landlords can work with their tenants, and make sure that over a reasonable period of time people have a chance to get back on their feet and certainly can stay in their home without worry of eviction,” Lamont said.
The funding includes $10 million in payments to landlords, with the focus on owners of housing of low-income tenants without unemployment insurance, including populations of undocumented immigrants.
There will also be $5 million to assist renters who were involved in the eviction process prior to the public health emergency was declared in March.
There will be another $10 million for homeowners whose mortgages are not federally insured. Nearly $8 million would help homeless people to start renting units, and people exiting the custody of the state Department of Correction.
During a morning meeting of the Housing Committee, Anwar, a physician from South Windsor, told state Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno that the planned $10 million for landlords “appears to be very little,” but the extension of the eviction moratorium “is going to be good news.”
Mosquera-Bruno said lower-income people would be entitled to $4,000 in relief over 12 months, or $333 a month, and would be required to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent. “We’re going to review incomes,” she said.
“Listen, I don’t have all the answers,” Mosquera-Bruno admitted, stressing that rent relief will be a continuing focus of the program. “With $10 million we’re going to see how we can deploy the money as fast as we can with the resources that we have. We’re going to see where and who needs the resources. Certainly we have a lot of work ahead of us. I don’t believe that we can just move 100,000 from one city to a suburb.”
“Many of the states, smaller than us from the population perspective, were looking at $50 million,” Anwar replied. “Other states were putting $100 million. Then $10 million appears very little because there are landlords that are hurting. The last thing we want to do is impact the ability to pay their mortgages.”
Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, co-chairman of the Housing Committee, stressed that tenants must notify the landlord that they have lost a job, lost hours of work, or otherwise lost revenue or faced significant increases in expenses because of COVID-19.
“There is a lot of confusion around the current executive order that protects many of our tenants,” McGee said.
Anwar said he wants major housing issues part of the upcoming July special session of the General Assembly on police accountability in the wake of nationwide protests against racism. Senate Democrats on June 19 rolled out a sweeping set of reforms including housing, criminal justice, economic development, health and education, which they said they would address in a special session this summer.
“As a physician, if we just do criminal justice alone in the special session, we’re just taking care of the symptom of a much more-complex, historical and systemic racism that has been impacting and truly plaguing our brothers and sisters in the African-American and Latino community,” Anwar said.
“In order to try to have a comprehensive strategy, housing is a central part of it, and whether we agree with it or not, well, most of the people when they look at the data would agree that we are a segregated state,” Anwar said. “And I think without having a strategy for desegregation and also having legislation around it, we’re not going to be able to make the impact that is needed. I’m hoping and praying that these recent events would have changed the hearts of our colleagues.”
He asked Mosquera-Bruno to create a wide-ranging desegregation strategy for Connecticut, “which is the most-segregated state in the New England area right now.”
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