The Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act
The 2008 financial crisis was a Great Depression-level event for Black Americans, wiping out decades of gains in Black homeownership, now at its lowest rate since the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Black borrowers were 76% more likely to have lost their home to foreclosure than white borrowers during the foreclosure crisis. As a result, both Black and Latinx households continue to be about twice as likely as white households to rent their homes. Today, families are up against dual economic and public health crises and critical supports and eviction protections have been allowed to expire. Against that backdrop, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 30% of Americans report having little to no confidence they will make next month’s rent—for Black Americans, that number is 46%. It is clear, the eviction crisis is foremost a matter of racial justice.
The Eviction Crisis:
- Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that around 3.7 million evictions are filed every year — a rate of around seven every minute.
- The ACLU’s analysis of Eviction Lab data found that “Black renters had evictions filed against them at nearly twice the rate of white renters” and Black women specifically were filed against at “double the rate of white renters or higher in 17 of 36 states.”
- In Massachusetts, Black renters are 2.4 times more likely to have an eviction filed against them and Black women are three times as likely to have evictions filed against them that are ultimately dismissed, leaving a negative mark that remains on their credit report for 7 years.
The Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act provides critical support to those facing evictions. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Prohibit credit reporting of evictions and rent and utility debt;
- Require covered landlords to inform their tenants of their rights and responsibilities and to disclose reasons for an eviction in writing to crack down on illegal evictions;
- Authorize $10 billion in Emergency Solution Grants (ESG) to fund legal counsel for those facing or at risk of eviction; and
- Direct the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a database of eviction information gathered from all State and local entities that receive covered housing assistance.