WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — With protections designed to halt some evictions and foreclosures set to expire in coming weeks, experts on Thursday urged Congress to take bolder action to prevent a likely housing crisis.
Millions of homeowners and renters have been struggling to make their monthly payments as coronavirus mitigation efforts have shut down businesses and put people out of work. A recent survey found 1 in 3 Americans may not make their housing payment this month.
“If we don’t move quickly then we’re going to be in for a huge, huge problem,” Donnell Williams of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers said during a virtual congressional subcommittee hearing Thursday. “It’s a critical time. It’s time for action.”
“The worst is yet to come,” Marcia Griffin of Home Free USA agreed.
They urged lawmakers to pass more aggressive protections to keep Americans, particularly members of minority groups, in their homes and ensure all borrowers have affordable ways to replay ballooning debts.
“How do we get to bailing out the airline industry before we look out for the homeowner?” Williams demanded.
Democrats want to extend the national ban on evictions and foreclosures from the current three months — set to expire next month — to one year and give homeowners more time to file for forbearance.
Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, also said lenders must do more to ensure eligible borrowers know what their options are.
“I’ve gotten calls, dozens of calls, and they’re confused about what the law says,” she said.
Republicans pushed back.
“Different homeowners face different difficulties and a one-size-fits-all (solution) may not be better,” Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., said.
He argued Congress should focus more on jobs rather than housing mandates that he said could be damaging.
“Nothing can replace getting people back to work and getting kids back in school so people can take care of their mortgage obligations,” he said.
The current protections help 1 in 3 homeowners.
The proposed extension of those protections are part of a $3 billion coronavirus aid package that Democrats put forth and Republicans have consistently rejected. The GOP has not proposed an alternative package. Democrats say time is running out.