To help you understand your rights and protections, the City of Philadelphia is creating action guides on federal policies. The action guides include facts, ways you can help, and other resources.

The COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has exposed how vulnerable America’s low- and moderate-income families are. For households living paycheck-to-paycheck, lost pay can result in eviction or foreclosure. Landlords face lost income too. Working from home is not an option for those without broadband or wi-fi.

Congress and the President are developing responses to the impact of the coronavirus. Those responses should include support for renters, homeowners, landlords, nonprofits, and private businesses. If they develop responses that are robust enough, we can not only survive the crisis but also come out of it with greater availability of affordable and workforce housing.

Know the facts

How is COVID-19 affecting renters and homeowners?

Many people – and not just hourly wage workers – are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. This hardship affects their ability to pay the rent or a mortgage. The federal and state governments should provide new, flexible funding to localities for temporary housing payment assistance. This would allow local governments to help their residents with programs to meet their specific needs.

Many governments already have programs in place to help people afford their housing, and to aid with eviction and foreclosure prevention strategies. They may be funded through HUD programs such as Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), Community Development Block Grants, HOME Investment Partnership Program, and other federal funding sources support. Increasing the funding to these sources can enable local governments to quickly expand these programs to meet the current expanding need. This need is likely to outlast the current COVID-19 crisis, and the federal government should consider making some of these programs need-based, so that every eligible American can receive assistance.

Many residents are unable to maintain their income by working from home because they lack broadband or wi-fi service. Their children are affected as well as they cannot take part in virtual classes. Funding to provide free wi-fi, laptops, and cloud-based software will help low-income residents, their children, seniors and other at-risk populations.

Unemployment insurance is the means by which many people will survive this crisis financially. Federal and state governments should work together to ensure that every worker affected by the crisis is eligible for and receives unemployment benefits—including those seeking part-time work, and those who lose their jobs for compelling family, caregiving, or medical reasons. The weekly amount of Unemployment Insurance benefits should be increased, and the federal government should fully fund 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits in all states. All states should be required to temporarily lift work search requirements during the public health emergency. Providing benefits to all who need them will help people pay for their housing and benefit the broader economy as well.

Lenders can help too. Homeowners should be able to skip up to 6 months of mortgage payments and have their mortgage term extended by the same time as the skipped payments. The federal government and state should put in place greater loss mitigation and mortgage foreclosure prevention measures. This will enable homeowners to remain current with their mortgages through the crisis. Additionally, the FHA should develop and insure robust financial products for homeowners and affordable housing developers to consolidate and restructure debt.

Are landlords affected too?

They are. If a tenant does not have the income to pay rent, then the landlord also loses income. Federal and state governments should offer guarantees for localities to provide landlords with insurance that can help cover these business income losses. This would ensure that landlords – many of whom are small operators – can keep a revenue stream while providing flexibility to tenants.

Even before this crisis many small landlords had trouble accessing capital to make repairs to their units. The sudden loss in revenue will make getting loans for repairs even harder. Federal and state governments should offer guarantees on small business loans to landlords making essential property repairs. Doing so would improve the housing stock and provide more work for small contractors also affected by the crisis.

Are there long-term steps we should be taking?

There are. The longer the crisis lasts the greater impact it will have on housing markets already in trouble. Many Philadelphians already have difficulty finding and affording safe, decent housing.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credits are the main way in which the federal government supports new affordable housing—creating about 110,000 new units a year, though that number is far short of the nation’s affordable housing needs. Congress and the President should double the amount of Nine Percent tax credits in the next fiscal year. Each year in Pennsylvania dozens of shovel-ready projects must sit on the shelf due to lack of available tax credits. Projects are ready to go and would provide both affordable housing and work for the construction industry.

Right now, members of Congress are hearing from lobbyists for airlines, cruise ships and casinos seeking bailouts.

Assisting the country’s affordable and middle-income housing markets will also support the construction industry.


Contact your members of Congress and tell them to support America’s low-, moderate- and middle-income renters and homeowners. Tell them to support small-business landlords too.


Ask Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania state legislators to help as well.