June 25, 2020

Senator Hassan Holds a Virtual Discussion on NH’s COVID-19-Related Housing and Homelessness Needs

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan held a virtual discussion with affordable housing leaders in New Hampshire to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the state’s housing and homelessness needs.


Senator Hassan has long worked to expand affordable housing in New Hampshire and prevent homelessness and evictions, especially now as the COVID-19 pandemic has strained many renters and homeowners’ ability to make housing payments due to a loss of income. Senator Hassan joined the rest of the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation in announcing that the bipartisan CARES Act sent $11.7 million and $3.6 million to New Hampshire to expand the state’s affordable housing and assist its homeless population. Senator Hassan also joined her colleagues in introducing legislation to establish an Emergency Rental Assistance program to provide $100 billion in emergency rental assistance to help families and individuals pay their rent and remain housed during and after the COVID-19 crisis.


See below for coverage highlights:


Concord Monitor: Housing advocates warn of "perfect storm" when federal unemployment boost ends

By Ethan DeWitt


New Hampshire affordable housing advocates are bracing for a “perfect storm” this summer, as tens of thousands of residents are set to see their federal unemployment benefits come to an end.


[…] Now, providers of affordable housing predict the cut-off could kneecap families who are out of work and create ripple consequences into the economy and rental market.


“We are very much in a position of waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Ben Frost, managing director of policy and public affairs at the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, speaking at a virtual roundtable on housing affordability hosted by Sen. Maggie Hassan.


[…] Making the problem worse: a shortage of housing, high rent costs and increased financial losses to landlords.


“It’s quite likely that a lot of tenants in rental housing had some COVID-related job loss,” said Margolin. “We’re bracing for what we would call the perfect storm for an evictions crisis.”


[…] “Sometimes the gap between what a tenant can pay and what their rent is – that causes a landlord to finally move on eviction – is relatively small,” [Senator Hassan] said. “But there isn't a lot of room in the law for there to be a solution that isn't either ‘stay in your apartment and don't pay your rent,’ or full eviction.”


For now, though, the focus in Washington has been a debate over further emergency aid as the virus continues to rage. Hassan blamed Republican opposition for the delay in further relief, calling it “baffling.”


“We are pushing, a group of us, for another COVID relief package as hard as we can,” Hassan said. “There does not seem to be a sense of urgency right now on the other side of the aisle in the U.S. Senate to get this done.”


Caledonian Record: North Country Faces Potential Eviction Crisis

By Paul Hayes


A housing emergency is on the horizon.


And it could strike harder in the North Country.


“We’re bracing for what we’ve been calling the perfect storm for an eviction crisis,” said Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action N.H., a statewide coalition of 80 housing providers.


During a conference call with Sen. Maggie Hassan on Monday, industry experts warned that evictions could spike later this summer when tenant protections and enhanced unemployment benefits lapse.


[…] Nearly half of the renters in New Hampshire were spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing before the outbreak — leaving them with insufficient savings for a global disaster.


“Housing prices in New Hampshire are already a stretch for a large number of our families,” Hassan said. “And certainly the challenge of a pandemic — with sudden loss of income — has really heightened this problem to new levels.”


[…] New Hampshire is set to distribute $35 million in CARES Act funds for housing relief. However that’s half of “conservative estimate” that the state Housing Finance Authority recommended.


Meanwhile, Hassan said, Democratic federal legislators are attempting to secure additional funding in the form of another relief package.


“I get asked a lot right now what the timing is on another COVID relief package. I will tell you we are pushing, a group of us, for another COVID relief package as hard as we can. There does not seem to be a sense of urgency right now on the other side of the aisle in the United States Senate to get this done,” Hassan said.


She stressed the need for long-term financial relief in her closing, noting, “We know the pandemic is going to continue to be here, it is going to continue to impact our people and our economy until everybody who should get a vaccine can get one, and that is a ways away.”


The Nashua Telegraph: Sen. Hassan talks housing in age of COVID-19

By Adam Urquhart


Affordable housing has been an ongoing challenge in New Hampshire, even prior to the pandemic, but with the foreclosure and eviction moratorium ending soon, the shortage may become an even greater issue.


On July 1, Gov. Chris Sununu’s moratorium on foreclosure and eviction proceedings will be lifted. He has said $35 million from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund is available for those in need of housing assistance. But at the end of July the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits are slated to end.


“We know that because we have such a slim supply of both rental housing and owner occupied housing that housing prices in New Hampshire are already a stretch for a larger number of families, and certainly the challenge of the pandemic with sudden loss in income has really heightened this problem to new levels,” U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said.


On Monday, Hassan hosted a virtual discussion on COVID-19-related New Hampshire housing and homelessness needs, hearing from professionals from across the state. Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH, a statewide coalition of 80 organizations.


[…] Moreover, Hassan said there is a group pushing for another COVID-19 relief package, but that there does not seem to be a sense of urgency right now on the other side of the aisle in the U.S. Senate to get that done.