The COVID-19 crisis has devastated communities across the country, crippling small businesses and threatening American’s ability to afford to remain in their homes. On Friday, June 26th, the Committee on Community Development and Housing, led by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms debated and approved nine resolutions designed to help rebuild our country’s local economies and maintain and expand access to affordable housing.
The Committee began the meeting with a panel discussion, bringing to light how individuals and families are facing both immediate and long-term housing needs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Mayors and guest panelists from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Abt Associates also noted how current economic projections make it clear that many renters and homebuyers will be unable to pay their rents or mortgages for the foreseeable future.
President and Chief Executive Office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Dr. Raphael Bostic, laid out fundamental similarities and differences between the economic crisis being felt by COVID-19 and the Great Recession of 2008. He detailed the affordable housing policies that mayors should be considering now, as federal relief efforts to address the current crisis will be expiring soon. He also urged mayors to be mindful of the opportunities that the economic downturn will likely create as it relates to real estate liquidations and land availability that could be prime for affordable housing developments of the future.
Jeffrey Lubell, Principal Associate and Director of Housing and Community Initiatives, Social and Economic Policy for Abt Associates echoed mayors’ calls for federally supported, locally executed aid. While emphasizing that local officials must advance effective affordable housing policies if they ever hope to promote racial equity among residents, he urged mayors to take a comprehensive, interagency approach when addressing the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19.
Following the panel discussion, Bob Butterbrodt, SVP of Government Relations for Wells Fargo addressed the Committee, sharing what lenders are doing to support their communities during the pandemic. According to Butterbrodt, Wells Fargo has many payment relief options for customers affected by COVID-19, including mortgage payment deferrals up to a year, suspension of residential property foreclosure sales, evictions, and auto repossessions, and fee waivers.
The Committee approved a resolution led by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms urging Congress to extend the moratorium for evictions and foreclosures established within the CARES Act. A separate resolution introduced by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was also adopted, opposing a proposed rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would evict undocumented tenants from subsidized housing.
In response to the demand for affordable housing that will likely continue to outpace supply as millions of Americans have lost their jobs or are working reduced hours due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Committee approved a resolution advanced by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg urging Congress to include an affordable housing stimulus in its next COVID-19 package.
The Committee also discussed how to help small businesses, which have experienced unprecedented financial hardship throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Members of the Committee noted that there is wide recognition that the PPP program should be modified to better meet small business needs. For example, mayors highlighted that the requirement that 75 percent of loan funds be spent on payroll costs has limited the efficacy of the program for many small businesses. Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan offered a resolution supporting efforts to reform the Paycheck Protection Program to better support small businesses. This resolution was approved by the Committee.
Additionally, the Committee adopted a resolution from Richmond, VA Mayor Levar Stoney supporting Senator Cory Booker’s Small Business Local Relief Act, which would allocate $50 billion in direct assistance to localities and states to establish and grow local relief funds and provide small businesses, especially those that are minority-owned, with additional support. The resolution also supports expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in the next federal relief package, and notes that SNAP has proven to be one of the most effective mechanisms available to reach low-income households and to provide counter-cyclical help in recessions.
With the Committee’s approval, these resolutions will now be considered by the Executive Committee of the United States Conference of Mayors and those that pass will become official Conference policy for the next year.