By David Brogan
Regardless of your political persuasion, the stalemate between Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can make anyone cringe. This is especially true if you are one of the 40 million renters in this country, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet, and who desperately need rental assistance. I’m not quite sure if congressional leadership refuses to recognize the exponential benefits of rental assistance or if they just don’t have the ability to see how beneficial rental assistance would be to our quality of life, our economy and our local and state governments, but it’s time to wake up.
I say to Congress, “Rental assistance, WTF!?” WTF stands for “Where’s The Funding?”
The trillions of dollars in stimulus aid since the beginning of this pandemic has helped people on unemployment, it has helped hospitals, and it has helped small and large businesses, but financial assistance has yet to be earmarked for renters. If Congress truly understood just how many facets of our economy would benefit from rental assistance, they’d recognize that this would be a bipartisan win and ensure that funding would be set aside accordingly.
Congress must stop looking at the multifamily industry as simply apartment buildings and tenants. They must look at the multifamily ecosystem as a whole. An ecosystem that provides housing, jobs, economic activity and tax revenue. There is a multiplier effect for local, state and national economies and housing stability helps families across our country, especially during a pandemic.
More specifically, the multifamily ecosystem includes tenants; landlords; small and large businesses that supply the industry; banks; municipalities; state governments and the federal government. That is, when rent revenue is flowing, tenants remain in their homes, landlords operate and maintain their buildings with hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide, mortgages get paid, and most importantly to government, taxes get paid on time and in full. So, for every dollar of rental assistance provided, you are seeing an exponentially positive impact to national, state and local economies, as well as billions of dollars in local, state and federal tax revenue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued an eviction moratorium, and some states, including New Jersey, already had eviction moratoriums in place. Many view this as the solution to the problem, but it is a misguided conclusion. As this pandemic rages on, the detrimental effects of these moratoriums will be felt by tenants; landlords; small businesses; state and local economies and much more – and it will be felt for years to come.
Specifically, the rent that is due today will continue to be due, placing tenants in a very difficult financial situation. The lack of rent revenue will force large landlords to halt reinvestment in those properties, cut staffs (increasing unemployment), and lead to potential problems paying financial obligations such as mortgage payments and taxes. For small landlords, the lack of rent revenue will thrust them into bankruptcy or foreclosure. In short, eviction moratoriums without rental assistance are not a solution because the financial problems facing landlords and tenants will persist and only get worse.
Assuming that Congress doesn’t care about larger landlords, or even tenants for that matter, perhaps they will look to help small mom-and-pop landlords who own 50% of the rental housing stock in this country. If rental assistance does not come in this next round of stimulus, we will see massive numbers of bankruptcies and foreclosures, retirement savings destroyed and college funds evaporated. This is because many small landlords invest everything they have into these properties with the hope that they will someday provide the necessary funds to retire or put their kids through college.
Election politics will dictate what gets funded and what doesn’t. However, Congress must understand that the positive domino effect of sustaining the multifamily ecosystem will not only benefit those living in the tens of millions rental units throughout our country, it will actually benefit hundreds of millions of people, businesses and government entities that desperately need help due to this pandemic. That not only makes good political sense, it makes sense both economically and socially as well.
So Congress, when contemplating rental assistance, please make the right choice so the people of this country no longer have to say WTF (Where’s The Funding) but rather “TFTF,” (Thanks For The Funding) and thanks for saving my home, my business, my life savings and our economy.
David Brogan is the executive director of the New Jersey Apartment Association, the largest trade association in New Jersey, which represents the owners, managers and vendors of the apartment industry.
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