FivePoint Chairman and CEO Emile Haddad, Lourdes Castro Ramírez (California Business, Consumer Services & Housing Agency), Robbie Hunter (State Building & Construction Trades Council of California) and Cynthia Parker (Bridge Housing) co-wrote an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 3 about the essential role that housing stability plays in our public health response to COVID-19 and California’s overall economic recovery. All are members of the Capital Markets and Infrastructure Subcommittee of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery.
Here is the full text to the opinion piece as it appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Congress must step up to rescue Americans from the eviction ‘cliff’
By Lourdes Castro Ramírez, Emile Haddad, Robbie Hunter and Cynthia Parker | Aug. 3, 2020
Research by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project estimates that as many as 23 million U.S renters could be at risk of eviction by the end of September. In California, the analysis estimates that nearly 4 million renters could be at risk, roughly a quarter of all renters in the state. If this is allowed to happen, it will put families at greater risk of losing the place they call home at a time when the public health crisis requires most of us to stay home. And we are rapidly approaching what will be — for good or ill — a defining moment.
The supplemental unemployment benefits and stimulus payments from the Cares Act have helped mitigate the loss of income and allowed many households to continue paying rent. But as these benefits expire and eviction moratoria around the country also expire, we now face an eviction “cliff.”
As members of the Capital Markets and Infrastructure Subcommittee of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery, we are working together — across industries, geographies and political affiliations — to identify solutions for Californians to recover safely and equitably, with a focus on communities hit hardest by the pandemic. While this recovery planning work is ongoing, what has been clear for months is the essential role that housing stability plays in both our public health response and our economic recovery.
Now is the time for bipartisan leadership in Congress to produce a new federal relief package so that our neighbors facing economic hardship because of the pandemic are able to stay in their homes and weather this pandemic.
In addition to the flexible aid to states and local governments the Task Force has long championed, it is critical that the new federal relief package include an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits, robust rental assistance, and housing preservation capital investments to prevent a repeat of the speculation that occurred during the great recession and keep families in their homes. Supplemental unemployment benefits should be continued at $600 per week.
One chamber has already proved it is possible to pass the relief our country needs. Thanks to the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House-passed Heroes Act included $915 billion in state and local aid, as well as $100 billion for renters’ assistance, $75 billion for homeowners’ assistance and a robust eviction ban.
Now is not the time for either reducing the level of assistance to families in need or for implementing an administratively complicated new benefits program that will only delay further support, as Senate Republicans proposed doing this week in the Heals Act. This legislation also fails to extend the federal eviction moratorium that expired over the weekend.
The COVID-19 and economic crises have compounded the preexisting housing crisis in California and across the country. Even before the pandemic, families across California were struggling to afford safe, stable housing.
Renters are particularly vulnerable to financial hardship. They have lower incomes, smaller rainy-day funds, less access to credit, and less job stability. This disproportionately burdens Black and Latinx households as well as undocumented immigrants, who are often excluded from income and rental assistance programs.
Moreover, housing is fundamental to vital recovery. Homeowners and families who rent rely on a stable economy to garner the wages needed to pay their rent and mortgages. Property owners rely on their renters to pay their mortgages and maintain their businesses. That is why both enhanced unemployment benefits and a federal eviction moratorium not only are relief measures but also promote economic growth and stability. Enhanced unemployment benefits in particular have been repeatedly mischaracterized as holding back the recovery in employment and output, when exactly the opposite is true.
By providing targeted actions for unemployment and direct housing assistance, we have the opportunity to protect consumers, prevent displacement, and help stabilize the economy — which are critical to our efforts to protect public health and ensure a just recovery that benefits all Californians.
Lourdes Castro Ramírez (California Business, Consumer Services & Housing Agency), Emile Haddad (FivePoint Holdings LLC), Robbie Hunter (State Building & Construction Trades Council of California) and Cynthia Parker (Bridge Housing) are co-chairs of the Capital Markets and Infrastructure Subcommittee of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery.