U.S. housing regulator extends eviction freeze for some multifamily property – ET RealEstate

WASHINGTON: A U.S. housing regulator announced Thursday it was extending until the end of September an ongoing moratorium on evictions at multifamily properties backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The move from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) applies to any multifamily property owners who have sought forbearance with the enterprises due to financial hardship.

Under the extension, which is now in effect until Sept. 30, those property owners cannot evict tenants for not paying rent, or charge late fees for unpaid rent.

The relief marks the third time the FHFA has extended such a moratorium in an effort to provide relief to struggling property owners and renters amid the coronavirus pandemic. The current moratorium had been set to expire at the end of June prior to the extension.

The additional relief comes as a broader legal fight about government efforts to curb evictions plays out. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court refused to lift a separate nationwide moratorium on residential evictions established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The three-judge panel said it would not lift a stay of a lower court ruling that had found the eviction ban unlawful. That moratorium is set to expire on June 30.

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Landlord groups urge U.S. Supreme Court to end pandemic eviction ban – ET RealEstate

WASHINGTON | NEW YORK: A group of landlords on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to issue an order that would effectively end the federal government’s national ban on residential evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

In an emergency petition, the landlord groups said a May 5 lower court decision nullifying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium should go into effect immediately.

Led by the Alabama Association of Realtors, the landlord groups argued that the CDC exceeded its authority when it halted evictions to help renters during the pandemic.

Despite ruling in favor of the landlords last month, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington agreed to “stay,” or halt, her ruling from taking immediate effect to allow the Biden administration to appeal.

“The stay order cannot stand,” the landlord group argued in its petition.

“Every day the stay remains in place, applicants’ property continues to (be) unlawfully occupied and their rental income continues to be unlawfully cut off,” the landlords added. “Nine months of overreach is enough. This Court should vacate the stay.”

The CDC’s eviction ban, enacted in September while former President Donald Trump was in office, is set to expire on June 30.

In a blow to the landlords, an intermediate appeals court on Wednesday said it would not lift the stay order put in place by Friedrich.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in that decision that the CDC eviction ban was likely lawful, but it has not yet issued a ruling on the merits of the case.

In the landlords’ appeal to the Supreme Court, the group said: “Landlords have been losing over $13 billion every month under the moratorium, and the total effect of the CDC’s overreach may reach up to $200 billion if it remains in effect for a year.”

Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said the landlords’ appeal to the nation’s highest court was “astonishing” because $50 billion in funding was available nationally to pay the rent arrears owed to them.

“If they spent even a quarter of that effort instead convincing landlords to apply for and accept the money,” said Yentel, “maybe they wouldn’t feel such a pressing need to evict low-income tenants who fell behind on rent during the global pandemic.”



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Existing home sales in U.S. dip in April; house prices race to record high – ET RealEstate

WASHINGTON: U.S. home sales fell for a third straight month in April as an acute shortage of properties drove prices to a record high.

Existing home sales dropped 2.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.85 million units last month, the National Association of Realtors said on Friday.

Sales fell in the Northeast, West and the densely populated South, but rose in the Midwest. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales rebounding 2.0% to a rate of 6.09 million units in April.

Home resales, which account for the bulk of U.S. home sales, surged 33.9% on a year-on-year basis. The annual increase was, however, distorted by the plunge in sales in April 2020, when the economy was reeling from mandatory shutdowns of non-essential businesses to slow the first wave of COVID-19 cases.

The housing market is being driven by demand for bigger and more expensive accommodations after the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of Americans to work from home and take classes remotely. But the virus has disrupted labor supply at saw mills and ports, causing shortages of lumber and other raw materials.

That is limiting builders’ ability to ramp up construction of new homes, keeping in place an inventory shortage that is boosting prices and threatening to sideline first-time homebuyers from the market. The government reported this week that homebuilding tumbled in April.

There is cautious optimism that the reopening of the economy, facilitated by the vaccination of more than a third of the population and massive fiscal stimulus, could encourage more homeowners to put houses on the market. Some elderly Americans likely delayed downsizing because of the pandemic.

The median existing house price shot up 19.1% from a year ago to $341,600 in April.

Economists do not believe another housing bubble is developing, noting that the surge is being mostly driven by a mismatch between supply and demand, rather poor lending practices, which triggered the 2008 global financial crisis.

There were 1.16 million previously owned homes on the market in April, down 20.5% from a year ago. At April’s sales pace, it would take 2.4 months to exhaust the current inventory, down from 2.4 months a year ago.

A six-to-seven-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.

First-time buyers accounted for 31% of sales in April.



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Ban on renter evictions during covid-19 pandemic is extended in US – ET RealEstate

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WASHINGTON: The Biden administration is extending a federal moratorium on evictions of tenants who have fallen behind on rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday moved to continue the pandemic-related protection, which had been scheduled to expire on Wednesday. The moratorium is now extended through the end of June.

The ban, initially put in place last year, provides protection for renters out of concern that having families lose their homes and move into shelters or share crowded conditions with relatives or friends during the pandemic would further spread the highly contagious virus, which has killed more than 545,000 people in the United States.

To be eligible for the housing protection, renters must earn $198,000 annually or less for couples filing jointly, or $99,000 for single filers; demonstrate that they’ve sought government help to pay the rent; declare that they can’t pay because of COVID-19 hardships; and affirm they are likely to become homeless if evicted.

In February, President Joe Biden extended a ban on housing foreclosures to June 30 to help homeowners struggling during the pandemic.

Housing advocates had generally expected the extension of the tenant eviction moratorium and had been lobbying the Biden administration, saying it was too early in the country’s economic recovery to let the ban lapse.

John Pollock, coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, said that the moratorium “is vital for ensuring there is enough time for Congress’s emergency rental assistance to reach the millions of renters in need who would otherwise be evicted.”

Pollack said current surveys show that 18.4% of all tenants owe back rent. That number also revealed significant racial disparity: The percentage of Black tenants behind on their rent was 32.9%.

But Pollock and other housing advocates were disappointed that Biden merely extended the ban without addressing several issues that put many tenants at risk of eviction.

“In Massachusetts, judges have green-lighted over 1,700 evictions under the federal eviction moratorium. While it is protecting some families, it’s clearly not protecting all,” said Denise Matthews-Turner, the interim executive director of City Life/Vida Urbana, a grassroots housing justice organization in Boston. “The extension is a good thing, but it’s disappointing that the moratorium wasn’t also strengthened to keep families from falling through the cracks, such as families with no-fault evictions or whose landlords won’t accept rent relief.”

Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said she and others had pushed to make the ban’s protections automatic and universal. Currently, tenants have to actively take steps to invoke the ban’s protections, which can lead to exploitation of those who don’t know their rights or don’t understand the process.

Also, some jurisdictions have allowed landlords to initiate the eviction process in court, a tactic that scared many families into leaving rather than having the eviction proceedings, even unfinished ones, on their records.

“While the Biden administration is well aware of the shortcomings in the moratorium order that allow some evictions to proceed during the pandemic, the CDC director did not correct them,” Yentel said.

Instead, the CDC “simply extended President Trump’s original order, leaving the loopholes and flaws in place, a disappointing decision that will result in more harmful evictions during the pandemic,” she said.

Pollock said the moratorium should also include a provision ensuring tenants have a right to counsel, “so that they can effectively use rental assistance and fight the increasing wave of illegal evictions.”

Isabel Miranda, who has an eviction hearing next month in Massachusetts, had mixed feelings about the extension. She worries that the courts and the landlord will not recognize the federal moratorium, but also appreciates that the ban gives her time to come up with nearly $10,000 in back rent owed on a one-bedroom apartment she shares with her partner and two children.

“It’s good news. It’s something that we at least have in our defense to prevent homelessness,” she said. “It gives us more hope that we will have time to navigate through the rental assistance that is being provided.”

Landlords in several states have sued to scrap the order, arguing it was causing them financial hardship and infringing on their property rights. They remain opposed to any extension, saying it does nothing to address the financial challenges facing renters and landlords.

There are at least six prominent lawsuits challenging the authority of the CDC ban. So far, three judges have sided with the ban and three have ruled against, with all cases currently going through appeals. One judge in Memphis declared the CDC order unenforceable in the entire Western District of Tennessee.

Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said he was “disappointed that the Administration is still pushing this poorly thought out and illegal policy.”

Fowke said in a statement that the government was embracing a short-term fix by “saddling landlords with the responsibility to provide free housing during this pandemic.”



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