Responding to COVID-19
Just like you, HOME of Virginia is concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus spreads throughout Virginia, our organization continues to serve our clients remotely and remains committed to staying connected to you during this time. As federal, state, and local policies are being developed in response to this health crisis, we want to make sure that you all remain well informed about the organization’s efforts to advocate for policies that ensure that all people throughout the state can access and remain in safe housing during this crisis without fear of discrimination.
COVID-19 Policy Updates
– State –
- On April 21st, City of Richmond Mayor, Levar Stoney, announced that $5.8 million of funding would be made available to meet emergency housing needs of the city’s most vulnerable populations. This includes $250,000 to HOME to supplement the Eviction Diversion Program. Additionally, the City of Richmond has issued a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for federal funds made available by the CARES Act, which includes funding for Community Development Block Grants, Emergency Solutions Grants, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS funds, and the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
- Virginia’s ban on evictions has been extended up May 17th. This stops all non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings, which includes civil and traffic cases.
- On March 25th, HOME of VA sent a letter to Governor Northam requesting an extension of the Virginia Supreme Court’s judicial emergency to halt non-essential and non-emergency court proceedings, which includes eviction proceedings. HOME also urged funds from the state’s eviction diversion and prevention fund to become available prior to July 1 in order to assist organizations with responding to this health crisis. Since then, the judicial order has been extended until April 26th. With the recent “stay at home” order issued until June 11th, we know that many individuals will continue to face the loss of income necessary to pay rent and will continue to advocate for an extension of the emergency order as needed.
– Federal –
- The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) outlined a summary of temporary relief available for single-family mortgage borrowers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. See here.
- As we saw with the 2008 housing crisis, communities of color are often the hardest hit by a foreclosure crisis. The federal government has authorized the FHA to issue an immediate eviction and foreclosure moratorium for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days. Additionally, on March 18th the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued a statement directing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend evictions and foreclosures for at least 60 days on enterprise-backed single family mortgages. While these policy efforts certainly help some homeowners remain in their homes during this crisis, only 30% and 25% of homeowners are backed through FHA and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae loans in Virginia, respectively. This leaves about 47% of homeowners unprotected and at risk of losing their home (Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, 2017). We will continue to work with existing foreclosure prevention clients as well as prepare for the anticipated increase in foreclosure filings.
– Protecting Disparate Impact (DI) and Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) –
In 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed two rules that would severely weaken fair housing throughout the country. One proposal would overhaul the disparate impact rule, an Obama era regulation that created uniform standards for applying disparate impact in housing discrimination lawsuits. The second proposal was a new AFFH rule that would undermine years of progress in fair housing by removing requirements for state and local governments and public housing agencies that receive certain HUD funds to proactively work to identify barriers to fair housing choice. HOME, along with dozens of civil rights advocates, submitted comments opposing these proposed rules. Despite the current health crisis, the Trump administration will proceed with announcing the new rules later this year. HOME will continue to oppose the rules as well as advocate for the decision to be delayed given the current health crisis.
– Combatting Discrimination –
- During a recent press conference, the Richmond Police Chief announced that despite the decrease in crime during the COVID-19 pandemic, instances of domestic violence has increased. Those experiencing or have experienced domestic violence are protected by the Fair Housing Act, as well as the Violence Against Women Act and the Virginia residential Landlord Tenant Act.
- As discrimination associated with COVID-19 increases, particularly against Asians and Asian Americans, we will continue to investigate reports of discrimination and advocate for policies that uphold federal and state fair housing laws. Additionally, we will have some specific issues on our radar, including hate-related incidents against Asians and Asian Americans, incidents of sexual harassment, and disability and age-related issues.
This health crisis has magnified the deep inequities that exist not only in the housing industry but across our social and economic institutions. As we work to respond to this crisis, we also want to create space for thoughtful dialogue on the many issues that touch housing during this time. Once a week, we will post a short piece on housing, inequity, and other issues relevant to our continued fight for fair housing during this time.