Fair Housing COVID-19 4.16.20

For a PDF view of this update click here.

ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

April 16, 2020

Resources for tenants and homeowners:

  • Click here to understand current tenant rent relief options in Spanish and English (Updated and attached for distribution).
  • Click here to find more details in our tenant FAQ.
  • Click here to understand current rights for homeowners in Spanish and English.
  • Click here to understand how fair housing can protect you during the COVID-19 crisis. (Recently added Tagalog and Khmer translations to our guidance now available in 11 languages.)
  • Need to have your subsidized rent recalculated due to income loss? The Rent Recalculation Request tool can be accessed here in Spanish and English.
  • To sign up for our daily update fill out the form

 

What happened on April 15, 2020:

  • Communities reach out to thank Governor Lamont for extending and expanding the eviction moratorium: The Center, tenants, advocates, and other community members reached out to Governor Lamont to thank him for continuing to keep Connecticut residents in their homes during the COVID-19 crisis.  The Governor’s Executive Order 7x halts the spread of the virus by preventing people from imminently losing their homes and potentially becoming homeless because they cannot pay their rent right now.  
  • People of color disproportionately impacted by COVID-19: People continue to sound the alarm on the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having in communities of color.  Many communities of color have lower homeownership rates resulting in greater numbers living in multifamily units, which was exacerbated by the 2008 real estate bust. These multifamily units typically have more shared living spaces like laundries, elevators and hallways, contributing to higher rates of the spread of the virus.  In addition, many people of color are essential workers and are continuing to interact with the public, such as in healthcare, grocery stores, transportation services, and delivery services.  Because of the types of jobs they are disproportionately likely to have and existing disparities in the healthcare system, many people of color lack employer-provided healthcare or other health insurance, contributing to a lack of treatment for COVID-19 risk factors like diabetes, asthma, and coronary artery disease.  Finally, fewer people of color have access to COVID-19 testing than whites. For information on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on communities of color, click here, here, here, here, and here.
  • Request to assist tenants and others during the crisis: The Partnership for Strong Communities’ HomeCT campaign called on Governor Lamont to create a rental assistance program to pay landlords the rent which tenants cannot pay, provide deferrals on state-backed mortgages for 120 days, add $25 million to the EMAP program to prevent foreclosures, and expand funding for legal services for residents facing eviction and foreclosure in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.  To read the full letter, click here.
  • Extension on use of executions in evictions and post-foreclosure cases: The Center and five other organizations sent a letter to Connecticut’s Judicial Branch asking that executions in summary process cases as well as post-foreclosure ejectments be stayed beyond May 1, 2020.  Click here to see the letter.
  • Housing authorities assisting tenants during pandemic: The organization that represents all of the housing authorities and many subsidized housing providers in Connecticut, ConnNAHRO, reports that its members have changed their policies and procedures in response to the COVID-19 crisis to better assist tenants. Housing authorities have now:
  • Stopped imposing late fees and other costs associated with non-payment of rent.
  • Notified all tenants that pre-termination notices and Notices to Quit are suspended for all cases.
  • Allowed tenants to report by phone or email that they have a loss of income that would necessitate an interim recertification.
  • Allowed self-certification of a change in income to process interim examinations
  • Suspended the time for tenants to report increases in income until their next regularly scheduled recertification if the program does not already do so
  • Suspended annual recertifications if they cannot be completed by mail and do not penalize tenants who cannot provide required documentation.
  • Conducted retroactive recertifications for tenants who were not able to report their decrease in income within typically required timeframes
  • Suspended any work and/or community service requirements.
  • Ensured tenants can assert their VAWA rights, including through emergency transfers
  • Responded to requests for reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications in a timely manner to ensure tenants can live in and use their housing

Written notices should be sent to all housing authority tenants and voucher holders in Spanish and English shortly. Tenants having difficulty reporting a loss of income or with any other housing authority procedural changes should talk to their housing authority and call the Center at 888-247-4401 or by email at info@ctfairhousing.org.

  • Outreach: The Record Journal, which serves central Connecticut municipalities, quoted Executive Director Erin Kemple in thanking Governor Lamont for extending and expanding the eviction moratorium.  You can read the article here.
  • Outreach: The Center’s COVID-19 fair housing notice has been translated into Khmer and Tagalog.  You can access the notices here.
  • Outreach: Staff created a Rent Recalculation Request letter generator to help tenants living in subsidized housing ask that they rent be reduced as the result of a loss in come.  The Rent Recalculation Request tool can be accessed here in Spanish and English.
  • Outreach: The Center’s website traffic continues to increase daily.
  • Outreach: Staff distributed this daily housing update to over 600 advocates and had more than 700 unique hits on the update on our website.  If you want this daily update delivered to your inbox, click here.

 

What has NOT happened:

  • Help for tenants who cannot pay their rent. Effective assistance for tenants includes:
    • Extending the May 1 stay on already issued executions.
    • Money to pay rent or utility bills for people whose employment is affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
    • Money for utility shut-off restoration once the moratorium ends and people are again faced with loss of utilities.
    • Making automatic adjustments to subsidized rents.
    • Setting reasonable time limits on landlord access to rental units.
    • Creation of a rent bank to help tenants who have lost their jobs pay rent.
    • Announcing self-help evictions are not allowed.
    • Ensure judgments dismissing summary process cases are being entered.
    • Keeping the eviction moratorium in effect long enough to allow tenants whose income was reduced to apply for and obtain relief benefits.
    • Additional lawyers to represent tenants in evictions and homeowners in foreclosure filed after the current moratoriums on filing new cases are lifted.
    • Housing counselors who can advise tenants and homeowners of the resources available to them to keep their homes after the current moratoriums are lifted as well as to avoid scams that may result in them losing money and their housing.
    • Additional mediators for Connecticut’s Foreclosure Mediation Program to assist the homeowners who will be faced with foreclosure actions once the moratorium on filing new foreclosure cases is lifted.
  • Bar on mortgage companies filing foreclosure complaints. Nearly 600 have been filed since the Governor declared a public health and civil preparedness emergency, including several that are banned by the agreement banks and credit unions struck with the Governor and the Department of Banking.
  • People continue to live in substandard conditions and cannot get assistance in moving out even though the conditions are harming them and their families.

 

What we are learning from our clients

  • The Center has tripled its call volume during the past month compared to the same period last year. The majority of calls received by the Center and other housing advocates ask whether there is any assistance for tenants who cannot pay their rent.
  • The Center’s Rent Recalculation Request tool has been used to request a rent recalculation at least twice a day since it was created on April 1, 2020. The Rent Recalculation Request tool can be accessed here in Spanish and English.
  • Tenants continue to call because they are being asked to show their apartments to prospective tenants without regard to COVID-19 precautions. The Center is advising tenants that under Connecticut landlord/tenant laws they have the right to refuse entrance to anyone if it would cause a safety hazard.
  • Because not all mortgage servicers are participating in the federal or state forbearance programs, homeowners continue to receive notices of default.
  • Mortgage servicers continue to file foreclosure complaints.
  • Homeowners do not know what to do when they receive a foreclosure summons and complaint since many courts and court information centers are closed.
  • People without legal status continue to face deportation and are unable to access services to stay in their homes.
  • People who were laid off from their jobs as the result of the pandemic are moving in with parents and friends sometimes causing overcrowding or lease violations. Foreclosures of homeowners will now affect many more people.

 

More external COVID-19 resources can be found on our website here.

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