June 30, 2020

Wyden Co-sponsors Bill to Support Homeowners, Renters Struggling Amid COVID-19 Pandemic and Economic Fallout

Housing crisis looms as millions fear foreclosure, eviction, homelessness

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has joined colleagues in introducing the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act to expand access to critical information, assistance programs and services for millions of families struggling to remain in their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout.

“COVID-19 is forcing families in Oregon and across the country to make tough decisions – balancing how to get food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, all while protecting themselves against a global pandemic,” Wyden said. “Congress must step up to the plate in order to give homeowners and renters the resources they desperately need to stay in their homes.” 

The Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act would provide $700 million for NeighborWorks to support housing counseling services to help homeowners, renters, people experiencing homelessness, and people at risk of homelessness navigate their housing options and rights during the COVID-19 crisis, including protections and resources provided through COVID-19 relief legislation. The bill requires that no less than 40 percent of the $700 million fund is targeted to counseling organizations that serve Black, Hispanic and low-income homeowners and renters.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, more than 4.2 million homeowners have entered foreclosure prevention plans since the end of March. Low-income and Black and Hispanic households have been disproportionately hurt by the health and economic crisis. In a Census Household Survey taken between June 4 and June 9, 12.43% of Hispanic households and 12.74% of Black households were not able to pay their mortgage, compared to 5.71% of white households. Additionally, 23.27% of Hispanic households and 25.77% of Black households were unable to pay their rent, compared to 11.78% of white households.

HUD-approved housing counseling agencies provide individual counseling and education services to help consumers avoid foreclosure and eviction, purchase homes, secure affordable rental housing and develop sustainable budgets. They can be especially important during an economic crisis. A 2018 report from NeighborWorks America shows that households that utilized the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program through a housing counseling agency during the Great Recession were three times more likely to receive loan modifications and less likely to go into foreclosure or re-default on their home loans compared to those who did not. 

Wyden joined U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., to introduce the legislation, as well as Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.,Tina Smith, D-Minn., Cory Booker. D.N.J., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Chris Coons, D-Del., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.,  Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Jon Tester, D-Mont., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Mark Warner, D-Va.

The legislation is endorsed by the Center for Responsible Lending, National Housing Resource Center, National Urban League, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors.

A copy of the bill text is available here.