Over the last few months, the White House and Treasury Department have been racing to address the program’s issues, repeatedly revising guidelines to allow tenants to receive payouts with minimal documentation, while enlisting state judges and even law school students to assist tenants in delaying or preventing evictions.
Despite the shortcomings of rental assistance thus far, Gene Sperling, who is in charge of overseeing pandemic relief programmes for President Biden, estimates that roughly 40% of vulnerable tenants in the country are either receiving assistance or temporarily protected from eviction by state and local moratoriums.
“If lower-performing states and localities do not pick up the pace,” Mr. Sperling said, “there will be a meaningful and painful gap for hundreds of thousands of families.” “That is unacceptable, and it is why we are continuing to push as hard as we can.”
No previous administration has taken a similar stance in attempting to halt evictions, which are overseen by state courts.
The Section 8 voucher programme, which pays private landlords and nonprofit groups the difference between market rate and the amount a tenant can pay, is the federal government’s primary rental subsidy. For decades, funding has been stagnant, and waiting lists of up to ten years are common in many cities.
“We have a rental housing shortage, a secular decline in affordability, and cost-burdened renters have very little buffer to set aside funds for a rainy day,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, faculty director of New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. “The pandemic has only highlighted the need for a permanent federal emergency rental programme.”
Section 8, on the other hand, with its time-consuming certification requirements, did not provide a useful template for the new emergency rental assistance funds. As a result, when the virus struck — and the money began to pour in — the federal government, states, and localities were essentially forced to invent an entirely new system, a process that would have otherwise required years of trial and error.