Dwight Evans for Metro Philadelphia: Op-ed: Philly and America need comprehensive housing relief

By U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, PA-3

Last month, I released my “Making Housing Matter” plan, which would provide both immediate relief and long-term funding for renter and homeowner aid.

We have thousands of renters and homeowners in Philadelphia alone who need help now, and that problem is magnified at the state and national level. The pandemic has worsened the housing and homelessness crisis we already had before coronavirus, so we also need to make changes for the long term.

House Democrats passed a sweeping Covid relief bill, the Heroes Act, in May and an updated version on Oct. 1. Republican Senate leaders have not brought either bill up for a vote or been able to pass a major relief bill of their own.

In addition to key provisions of the updated Heroes Act, such as $50 billion in emergency rental assistance, my plan also includes key portions of the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), a landmark infrastructure bill the House passed on July 1. It would spur the construction of an estimated 1 million new affordable housing units across the country.

To assist vulnerable homeowners, I am also leading legislation known as the Helping HOMES Act (H.R. 8003) to expand federal mortgage relief to cover all single-family mortgages, extending forbearance to the third of the market not covered under the CARES Act, the last major Covid relief bill, which became law in March.

The Helping HOMES Act would ensure homeowners are aware — up front — that they may request forbearance through the end of the calendar year due to pandemic-related financial hardship. It would require mortgage services to notify homeowners that they may be eligible. I am also fighting for similar protections for renters championed by my colleague Congresswoman Madeleine Dean from Montgomery County.

My plan has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, Philadelphia City Council and numerous community and housing organizations and agencies.

Seven months ago, when the CARES Act passed on a quick, bipartisan basis, we hoped the virus would be largely under control by now, as it is in some countries.

Unfortunately, our nation’s response to the virus has left our citizens and our economy in dire need of more relief. With winter and flu season approaching, the Republican Senate and White House must rise to the occasion and agree to a deal big enough to see Americans through for the next few months. Housing is one of the most critical needs, especially since social distancing is a key tool for preventing the spread of the virus.

I am working with partners across Pennsylvania, including Congressman Mike Doyle from Pittsburgh, to push for both the short-term and long-term housing relief that our neighbors need.

Making Housing Matter is a plan not just to address the current crisis, but to help our fellow Americans avoid a return to the affordable housing crisis that harmed so many before any of us had heard of Covid-19.