Many will end up homeless, crowding shelters and street corners during the coldest months of winter. Most will find shelter with friends and relatives, shattering social distancing efforts while the pandemic rages, just months before vaccines are available to average Americans.
This week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that apartment owners with mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — less than half of the multifamily market — will get forbearance on their own obligations through March 31. To get this help, they must inform tenants in writing about the protections that are available and agree not to evict solely for the nonpayment of rent while the property is in forbearance. The exact same restrictions should apply to rental assistance payments as well.
When the CARES Act was signed on March 27, it took Treasury more than a month to issue guidance on the implementation of relief funds. We simply don’t have that kind of time to waste now. The Treasury General Counsel’s office and the Biden transition team should begin work immediately on new guidance based on that which already exists, so they can be issued no later than January 21. This will provide landlords the assurance that help is around the corner, which will encourage them to help their tenants stay in their homes.
The stakes are too high to allow for any delay. The first step is for the President Trump to sign the bill he has been given, which his own Treasury Secretary helped negotiate. The second is for everyone involved in the process of getting the money out to work together.