COVID-19 Housing Relief Policies, Explained

Public health experts are clear: we must ensure people can stay in their homes as a matter of public safety. Every month, millions of Americans pay more than they can afford to keep a roof over their head. The current public health emergency has exacerbated that stress, meaning millions of people have been forced to accrue thousands of dollars in rental debt. We demand a nationwide suspension of all rent/mortgage payments and forgiveness of all accrued rental debt, which would reduce rent and mortgage payments to zero and suspend the accrual of interest on existing mortgages for the duration of the crisis.

We must strengthen and extend the CDC’s national moratorium on evictions. This means banning ALL eviction filings, summons, hearings, judgements, and writs of execution through the end of the pandemic. 

Many landlords do not adhere to legal processes when evicting tenants. This behavior is even more cruel during times like these, and should be duly punished. Congress should determine severe penalties for banks, corporations, and individuals who violate this moratorium.

Utilities like water, gas, electric, and internet should be provided as a public good, especially during a public health crisis. Utility shutoffs should be suspended. Beyond a ban on shut-offs, and to ensure true health equity, any current utility service shut-offs should be suspended indefinitely for all households, regardless of ability to pay.

The over half a million people forced into homelessness in the United States are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. We must immediately provide emergency non-congregate housing to people who have been forced to live in the streets or in unsafe shelters.

This public health emergency requires a commitment to provide a home for everyone who needs one. If official guidance compels the public to “stay home” to contain the spread of COVID-19, we must make sure all people have access to safe homes.

The federal government must take unprecedented action to convert vacant hotel and motel rooms, dorms, schools, hospitals, and large stadiums into housing for people who need it, by exercising eminent domain, and incentivize state and local governments to do the same.

For people who will not or cannot move indoors, the federal government must build emergency sanitation sites, complete with bathing and laundry facilities, near encampments and major public transit hubs to help people stay healthy and prevent transmission of COVID-19.Local health departments, community health clinics, shelters, and other front line service providers should receive an infusion of federal funding to cover staff overtime pay and necessary supplies.

We must enact an immediate moratorium on encampment sweeps, closures, and vehicle tows. Sweeps and other practices that criminalize homelessness pose a serious health risk, as they disrupt consistent access to services and ability for outreach and health workers to provide continuous care.

We must create a Social Housing Acquisition Fund to prevent massive corporate purchases and real estate speculation, like what occured after the 2008 crisis, and to begin a transition to social housing.

In the long run, we must pass a Homes Guarantee. 

Build 12 million new social housing units and eradicate homelessness

Reinvest in existing public housing

Protect renters and bank tenants 

Pay reparations for centuries of racist housing policies

End land/real estate speculation and decommodify housing


People’s Action, Washington CAN, Community Voices Heard, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, ONE Northside, POWER LA, VOCAL-NY, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, Citizen Action of New York, Reclaim Philly, Maine People’s Alliance, KC Tenants, PLAN (NV), PUSH Buffalo, Housing Justice for All NY, Action Center for Race and the Economy (ACRE), Alliance for Housing Justice, Partnership for Working Families, PolicyLink, Public Advocates, The Democracy Collaborative, The Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative at the University of Pennsylvania, Center for Popular Democracy, MHAction, and Right to the City.

Scroll to top