Portman, Bennet, Brown, and Young Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Tackle the Eviction Crisis

June 23, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Michael Bennet (R-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Eviction Crisis Act of 2021 to address the national housing crisis holding back millions of American families who are struggling to ascend into the middle class. This legislation will shed light on the root causes of the eviction crisis, reduce preventable evictions, and limit the devastation to families when eviction is unavoidable.

“Stable housing is a vital part of getting people back on their feet. I’ve long worked on efforts to address homelessness and increase the supply of housing and I’m proud to partner with Senator Bennet on this bipartisan initiative. After dealing with extraordinary job losses throughout the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that legislation that can help prevent avoidable evictions and reduce homelessness is more important than ever,” said Portman.

“Time and again I’ve heard from Coloradans about how one single event — an unexpected illness, a car accident, or a family emergency — can lead to their lives falling apart. Too often, these unavoidable circumstances can result in a family being evicted from their home and falling into a cycle of poverty that lasts for years,” said Bennet. “The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened this deep national crisis. The hardship caused by eviction is agonizing for the millions of American families evicted every year, and it's past time for us to invest in comprehensive solutions to prevent avoidable evictions.”

“Home is the foundation of the rest of our lives: our family connections, our education, our work, and our health. The shortage of affordable housing and evictions tear at that foundation. And as we learned during the pandemic, the lack of a safe, stable home can even mean the difference between life and death. The Eviction Crisis Act will give our communities new tools to prevent evictions and support vulnerable households,” said Brown.

“Evictions start with the loss of a home and often end with job loss, depression, and becoming further ingrained in the cycle of poverty. Indiana is home to three cities with some of the highest eviction rates in the United States and this legislation takes a number of important steps to work with and support tenants, landlords, and municipalities to help avoid the process of putting another family on the street,” said Young.

Specifically, the Eviction Crisis Act of 2021 will:

  • Improve Data and Analysis on Evictions
    • Creates a national database to standardize data and track evictions, in order to better inform policy decisions.
    • Establishes a Federal Advisory Committee on Eviction Research to make recommendations related to data collection, as well as policies and practices that can prevent evictions or mitigate their consequences.
    • Authorizes funding for a comprehensive study to track evictions, analyze landlord-tenant law, and assess varying factors in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
  • Reduce Preventable Evictions and Mitigate Eviction-Related Consequences
    • Co-invest in state and local government programs:
      • Creates a program to fund state and local governments expanding the use of landlord-tenant community courts and increasing the presence of social services representatives for tenants, which help both tenants and landlords avoid the high cost of eviction.
      • Establishes a new permanent Emergency Assistance Program to provide financial assistance and housing stability-related services to eviction-vulnerable tenants. As states wind down their COVID-related Emergency Rental Assistance programs, states and local jurisdictions will be able to transition seamlessly to this new program. 
    • Support increased legal representation for tenants:
      • Expresses support for substantially increasing funding for the Legal Services Corporation, a public-private partnership that provides legal services to low-income Americans.
  • Improve Information on Tenant Screening Reports
    • Requires consumer reporting agencies to provide consumers with tenant screening reports when they are requested as part of a rental application process, so tenants can contest and correct inaccurate or incomplete information.
    • When a court rules in favor of a tenant in an eviction proceeding, this bill requires those judgments and eviction filings related to that proceeding to be removed from tenant screening reports.

The bill text is available here. A summary of the bill is available here. A full description of the bill is available here.

Background

Since 1960, the median household’s income grew by less than 40% after adjusting for inflation, yet the median rental payment rose by nearly 80%. With housing costs far outpacing incomes, roughly 3.7 million eviction cases were filed annually in recent years. In 2016, one in 50 renters was evicted from his or her home. This nationwide eviction crisis has undermined family economic security and placed enormous financial strain on the nation’s health care system, courts, schools, and local governments.

In Ohio, six cities ranked in the nation’s 100 “Top Evicting Areas”: Akron (ranked #24, with a 6.1% eviction rate), Dayton (#26, 5.9%), Toledo (#30, 5.6%), Cincinnati (#46, 4.7%), Columbus (#52, 4.6%), and Cleveland (#53, 4.5%).

NOTE: Senator Portman has long spearheaded efforts to ensure Ohioans have affordable housing, something more important than ever with the onset of massive job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The final FY 2021 bipartisan funding agreement, passed in December 2020, included $25 billion for rental assistance, which Portman negotiated. The rental assistance included in the COVID-19 relief bill helps those with financial setbacks due to the pandemic pay rent and make housing providers whole.

Support for the Eviction Crisis Act

The following national organizations have endorsed the Eviction Crisis Act: National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC); Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign; National Alliance to End Homelessness; Children’s HealthWatch; NAACP; COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project; National Association of Social Workers; National Education Association; National League of Cities; Food Research & Action Center; Coalition on Homelessness & Housing in Ohio; Colorado Coalition for the Homeless; Full Circle of Lake County; HomewardBound of the Grand Valley.

“Eviction isn’t just a consequence of poverty; it’s a cause of poverty. Yet we allow millions of Americans to face the threat of eviction each year. Families with children are at particularly high risk of eviction. Many evicted families lose their home and possessions, often falling into homelessness. Research shows that eviction thwarts economic mobility and is linked to long-term negative health outcomes. Passing the Eviction Crisis Act would be a big step forward, deepening our understanding of the problem and preventing families from the devastating consequences of displacement. Everyone needs a safe and affordable home. I commend Senators Bennet and Portman for their efforts and look forward to working with them to pass this bill into law,” said Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

“I applaud Senators Michael Bennet and Rob Portman for their leadership in introducing legislation to create new, permanent tools to help end America’s ongoing eviction epidemic, which most severely impacts the lowest-income and most marginalized households. If enacted, the Eviction Crisis Act would create a new Emergency Assistance Program – a policy solution developed and advanced by NLIHC’s Opportunity Starts at Home campaign – to extend an emergency cushion to families in crisis. Together with the legislation’s new data collection and outreach initiatives, the bill would help low-income renters avert the downward spiral of housing instability and homelessness. I urge Congress to quickly pass this bill,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“Improving housing stability is not just about keeping people in their homes, but it’s also about providing them with the foundation they need for success in many other areas of life. Stable, affordable homes are linked with better educational outcomes, better health outcomes across the lifespan, greater food security, upward economic mobility, and reduced costs to the taxpayer,” said Mike Koprowski, National Director of the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign.

“The Emergency Assistance Fund will not only keep families stable in their homes, but will also promote health. For many of my patients’ families, a housing crisis that threatens their health and wellbeing is one missed paycheck or one unexpected expense away. This bill is an innovative solution for ensuring that families are protected from economic shocks and that children and their families are able to remain healthy in their homes,” said Dr. Megan Sandel, Co-Lead Principal Investigator for Children’s HealthWatch and pediatrician at Boston Medical Center.

“Every day, people become homeless who not long ago had a stable home, but whose lives and housing were disrupted by an economic crisis that a small amount of money could have fixed. Thanks to Senators Bennet and Portman for this legislation that would make such help available, preventing housing instability and homelessness and improving the lives of struggling Americans,” said Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

“On behalf of the members of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the nation’s largest professional social work organization, I want to offer my full support for the passage of the Eviction Crisis Act. I also thank Senators Bennet and Portman for joining in a bipartisan collaboration to address one of the country’s most important social problems. Social workers, as direct providers of services to indigent and low-income families, are all too aware of how financial distress can create a housing crisis which often leads to homelessness. The Emergency Assistance Fund will help state and local governments to develop innovative programs that will lead to housing stability for low-income families. You can be assured that NASW will join with other Opportunities Start at Home partners to help get this bill passed,” said Dr. Angelo McClain, CEO of the National Association of Social Workers.

“America’s cities, towns, and villages are on the front lines of the affordable housing crisis, and local leaders are eager to support bold solutions like the Eviction Crisis Act of 2021. This legislation would give local governments an opportunity to address a host of social and economic challenges at the root level, including by providing resources to mitigate housing instability and limit costly evictions. The National League of Cities commends Senators Bennet and Portman for introducing this bill; and for their ongoing bipartisan leadership, which is so sorely needed today,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and Executive Director of the National League of Cities.

“The National Education Association applauds Senators Bennet and Portman for their reintroduction of the Eviction Crisis Act. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how essential housing is - especially for our students. This bill assists families facing desperate circumstances and will provide students with stable homes as we look to rebuild our communities,” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association.

“Eviction from one’s home is a horrible trauma – from the decimation of a family’s shelter to the destruction of its financial security. The NAACP salutes and supports the efforts of Senators Bennet and Portman to thoughtfully and effectively address this serious, and sadly continuing problem. The provisions of this legislation which create an Emergency Assistance Fund to help extremely low-income American families facing eviction is an incredibly important tool in our arsenal to fight the scourge of homelessness. The Emergency Assistance Fund, as envisioned by this legislation, is perhaps one of the best examples of a ‘safety net’ that I can think of that the government can, and should, pursue for all Americans during the hardest economic times in their lives,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, households around the nation have experienced unprecedented threats to not only their health, but also to their food, housing, and economic security – with harms disproportionately affecting Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other communities of color. The Emergency Assistance Fund is a smart investment in our nation’s families. The Fund will not only keep a family housed, but also increase a family’s food security by stabilizing the situation and avoiding the multiple harms to nutrition, health, and well-being emanating from an eviction and hunger,” said Luis Guardia, President of the Food Research & Action Center.

“The Coalition on Homelessness & Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) enthusiastically endorses the Eviction Crisis Act and the creation of the Emergency Assistance Fund designed to prevent unnecessary evictions. Evictions were down in 2020, but with the moratorium expiring at the end of June, we fear there could be a spike in evictions this summer. Evictions are not only the result of – but also a cause of – deeper poverty eventually leading to increases in homelessness. Once we’re out of pandemic crisis mode, this legislation will have a lasting impact on the everyday crises facing the lowest income Americans. We appreciate the leadership of Ohio’s own Sen. Rob Portman working together to tackle this stubborn problem,” said Bill Faith, Executive Director of Coalition on Homelessness & Housing in Ohio and state partner of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign.

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