More than a year after the murder of George Floyd, rallies and marches spread out across Connecticut and the nation renewing a call to end entrenched racism and police violence. As a new report from the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities demonstrates, however, a year of protests and marches have not resulted in Connecticut addressing the racism and discrimination that make Connecticut one of the most segregated states in the country. The Connecticut Fair Housing Center calls on policy makers to rise to the challenge of addressing persistent racial inequities in housing through comprehensive land use reform. Recalcitrance on the part of municipalities to take steps to integrate, discriminatory community opposition to affordable housing, and the disingenuous characterization of weakened land use legislation as “a state takeover” of local zoning should inspire and not deter more resolute action. The Center is working to promote integration and strengthen existing communities of color. Please join us.
In today’s update:
Since March 15, 2021, when UniteCT began accepting applications:
- Landlords have filed 1,774 new summary process (eviction) cases;
- Courts have issued 682 executions—once a court issues an execution order, the landlord can hire a state marshal to remove the tenant and their belongings from the unit.
Mortgage delinquencies continue to rise: Information gathered by CoreLogic on mortgage delinquencies reveals that Connecticut currently ranks 9th in the country for mortgages that are 90 days or more past due.
Racial and ethnic disparities continue in recovery from pandemic-related economic hardship: According to the latest data from the Household Pulse Survey, 37% of Latinx renters and 57% of Black renters have slight or no confidence in their ability to pay rent next month compared to 19% of white renters.
In addition, 28% of Latinx homeowners, and 24% of Black homeowners have little or no confidence in their ability to pay their mortgage next month compared to 8% of white homeowners.
Changes to UniteCT
The US Treasury Department published new guidelines to ensure tenants receive help with rent arrearages quickly: On May 7, 2021, the U.S. Treasury sent out new guidance on nine enhanced policies to directly aid renters, prevent evictions, and help tenants transition to secure housing. In response to the new guidance, DOH has announced that it will make the following changes to the UniteCT program:
- Eliminating the 6-month look back period. Tenants will now be eligible to receive up to $10,000 in rental arrearage payments for any rent owed after March 13, 2020;
- Landlords will be eligible for payments of up to $10,000 for rental arrearages without any requirement that the landlord write-off 15% of the rental arrearage;
- If tenants are eligible for prospective rental payments through UniteCT, the tenant will not be required to contribute any rent for the first three months of prospective payments;
- UniteCT will use income proxies to determine eligibility. If an applicant lives in a low-income census block, the applicant will not be required to submit income verification. Instead, the applicant can sign a self-attestation that they have income at or below 80% of AMI and will not have to submit paystubs or tax returns;
- Applicants who receive benefits from Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, State Administered General Assistance (SAGA), and the state supplement will be eligible for UniteCT without additional income verification;
- The income proxy verification will be put in place by June 2, 2021;
- UniteCT will provide benefits to tenants who live in public or subsidized housing. Anyone who has been denied benefits because they live in public or subsidized housing should contact firstname.lastname@example.org immediately;
- UniteCT, legal services attorneys, and the Judicial Branch are meeting to expedite a process for tenants with summary process cases in court to get emergency rental assistance.
Applying for UniteCT/advice for completing an application:
UniteCT’s emergency rental and utilities assistance is available for individuals with a household income at or below 80% of AMI who have experienced a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications must be made on-line. A list of the documents which must be included with an application can be found here. Visit https://portal.ct.gov/DOH/DOH/Programs/UniteCT to apply or call 1-844-864-8328 to get a referral to a community agency who may be able to assist tenants and landlords in applying.
Tenants denied assistance from UniteCT will receive notice with instructions on how to appeal the denial. A tenant has 14 days from the date of denial to appeal by sending an email to email@example.com stating the reason for the appeal.
All landlords and tenants should apply for UniteCT to ensure that they receive the assistance they need to stay in their homes and have all eligible rental arrearages paid.
DOH has stated that it will meet with landlords to convince them to accept UniteCT rental payments even if the landlord states they will not participate in the program. Email DOH at firstname.lastname@example.org if your landlord refuses to participate in the program.
Tenants who have not received a confirmation email once their application is submitted should email: email@example.com or call 1-844-864-8328.
Landlords who have not received a confirmation email once their application is submitted should email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-844-864-8328.
DOH hopes to be able to contact tenants with missing pieces of their application after they have hired additional staff.
The UniteCT mobile tech bus will be at the following locations during the week of May 31, 2021:
UniteCT’s tech bus provides the necessary technology to apply for rental assistance. Tenants and housing providers who may not have access to the technology required to complete an application for rental assistance are encouraged to visit the bus. To learn more about the bus please contact the host agencies.
West Hartford, CT
When: Tues., June 1, 10am – 3pm
Location: Faxon Public Library, 1073 New Britain Avenue, West Hartford CT
Contact: Keren Paquette, email@example.com
When: Wed. June 2, 10am – 3pm
Location: Norwalk Public Library, 10 Washington Street, Norwalk, CT
Contact: Lauren Franciamore, firstname.lastname@example.org
New Haven, CT
When: Thursday, June 3, 10am – 3pm
Location: Wilson Library, 303 Washington Ave, New Have
Contact: Gina Bingham, email@example.com
At a UniteCT bus event on May26, participants report the following:
- Error messages when registering people for the UniteCT Portal. The error came after the tenant made their password and then tried to log in after. The message said ‘The email was not registered’ even though the tenant had received a confirmation message at the email address.
- Tenants are still frustrated with how many documents they need to provide to qualify for assistance;
- The Wi-Fi worked better than the previous week;
- The process developed for scanning in tenant documents is quicker and more efficient;
- The bus needs:
- More tables
- More chairs
- Better access to restroom facilities (Could not use the bathroom in the school)
- More volunteers to help
- Over 100 people stopped by the bus. Not everyone that showed up completed their applications on site, but everyone was seen and spoken to. Some needed to get more documents and were given the flyer with information on the required documents;
- The time for applications was extended past 3 pm to service more clients;
- The need for outreach is still great in the New Haven area.
Under UniteCT, tenants must have written rental agreements to be eligible. If there is no written rental agreement, the landlord and the tenant must sit down together and write one. The rental agreement must have a holdover clause in it meaning that it has to say that the tenant has the right to stay after the agreement expires. Treasury guidance states that tenants who do not have adequate documentation of the amount of the rental obligation or the terms of their rental agreement may submit a written attestation.
People who are paid in cash may have difficulty qualifying for UniteCT if they do not live in a low-income census tract and if their employer does not wish to provide the documentation. Treasury guidance states that if an applicant cannot provide written documentation of income, an attestation form can be used.
Eviction filings are increasing and move outs that can be avoided are still happening because rental assistance is not getting distributed quickly or broadly. Tenants are in danger of losing their homes to eviction while they await a decision on their UniteCT applications.
The tenant cannot find out what information is missing from their application.
The UniteCT website contains a button to translate all information into Spanish when the site is accessed on a computer, but not when accessed by phone or tablet. The landlord and tenant FAQs on the UniteCT website cannot be translated into Spanish.
The UniteCT website does not provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application.
The online application portal is not fully accessible for tools used by individuals with hearing and vision impairments. In addition, the UniteCT website does not provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application.
The online application’s “Help Portal” does not translate the instructions into any language other than English.
Complex program eligibility requirements, the voluminous required documentation, and technical challenges make it unlikely that UniteCT will successfully distribute its more than $400 million in federal rental assistance.
The Center recommends the following changes to UniteCT to ensure stability and safety for Connecticut’s families:
- Provide assistance directly to tenants whose landlords refuse to participate in UniteCT as required by the Treasury guidance;
- Prohibit evictions and executions for any tenant who has a pending or approved UniteCT application;
- Conduct adequate tenant and landlord outreach;
- Provide more intake support for tenants and landlords so that they can navigate the complex UniteCT system;
- Ensure that tenants are approved, and appeals granted using equity-based strategies that are not based on whether the tenants “deserve” to be helped:
- Include data on all information collected in the UniteCT application down to the census tract level so that everyone will know if the program is reaching the tenants who are most in need;
- Remove the requirement that applicants upload a copy of a government identification. Treasury guidelines do not require that applicants have government identification to apply and qualify;
- Require landlords to use an attestation form or check off list that states the monthly rental amount, amount owed, and a statement that the tenant has the right to stay in the unit as opposed to a written rental agreement;
- Fix the technical problems raised above including providing reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application;
- Notify tenants with disabilities that they have a right to reasonable accommodations when trying to fill out and complete an application.
Eviction and foreclosure moratorium status:
Governor Lamont extended the Connecticut Eviction Moratorium through June 30, 2021. This means that landlords cannot start most new eviction cases untilJuly 1, 2021, with four major exceptions. Review our fact sheet on the exceptions to the moratorium and make sure to respond to any eviction papers you receive. More information about the eviction process is available here.
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction ban will be in place through June 30, 2021. This protection is NOT automatic. It only applies to tenants who cannot pay full rent or other housing payments because they have lost income or have very expensive medical bills. To receive this protection, you must provide your landlord with a signed copy of the CDC declaration form. More information about eligibility requirements and how to complete the CDC declaration is available here.
States where local moratoriums have been lifted have seen a spike in eviction filings: The CT Coalition of Property Owners and the CT Property Owners Alliance stated in their press release that there have been no tsunami of evictions in states where the eviction moratorium have been lifted. But most places that lifted their local and state moratoriums have seen a surge of evictions.
No foreclosure moratorium on mortgages that are not “federally-backed” or non-mortgage foreclosures: Homeowners whose mortgages are not “federally-backed” or who owe condominium fees, real estate taxes, or other real estate related taxes are not protected from foreclosure.
Help for tenants
Right to counsel passes the Senate: On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, the Connecticut Senate passed legislation which gives tenants whose income is at or below 80% of State Median Income a right to an attorney during an eviction. The bill that passed is similar to the one approved by the Connecticut Housing of Representatives earlier in May. Because of a few minor changes to the version passed by the Senate, the bill went back to the House for final action. On Thursday, May 27, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed the revised bill. The law is now on Governor Lamont’s desk for signing.
Visit the Center’s website for fact sheets on the Connecticut and CDC eviction bans and available rental assistance programs. FAQs about evictions, rental assistance, and housing discrimination during the Covid-19 pandemic are also available.
The CFPB’s research brief, “Characteristics of Mortgage Borrowers During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” shows the impact of the COVID-19 economic crisis on homeowners of color:
- Borrowers in forbearance or delinquent are disproportionately Black and Hispanic. For example, 33% of borrowers in forbearance (and 27% of delinquent borrowers) are Black or Hispanic, while only 18% of the total population of mortgage borrowers are Black or Hispanic.
- Loans in forbearance or delinquent are disproportionately likely to have high loan-to-value (LTV) and limited equity, leaving them vulnerable to being underwater and being unable to easily sell their property so as to limit their debt burden. For example, half of all loans in forbearance have an LTV greater than 60%, compared to only 34% of current loans. Borrowers who are behind on their payments but not in forbearance are more than five times as likely to have an LTV greater than 95% than borrowers who are current on their payments.
- Forbearance and delinquency are significantly more common in communities of color (defined as majority minority census tracts) and lower-income communities (defined by census tract income quartiles).
For older mortgage news and data, please visit our website.
Help for homeowners
Connecticut is using federal Homeownership Assistance Funds to assist homeowners delinquent on payments: The American Recovery Plan included funding for homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. Connecticut will receive approximately $123 million. DOH is working with CHFA to pilot a program that will provide up to $20,000 in a grant to homeowners whose income is at or below 80% of AMI and who are socially or economically disadvantaged. A pilot program is expected to begin in June 2021. Details will be posted on the DOH and CHFA websites.
Foreclosure advice: The Center is holding Foreclosure Advice Virtual Sessions. Homeowners facing foreclosure can sign up for advice sessions over video or phone. These Sessions are in addition to the considerable number of videos and materials available at www.ctfairhousing.org.
Payments to help with internet access: The Federal Communications Commission has launched a temporary program to help families and households struggling to afford Internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail in application.
VISIT OUR WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR FAIR HOUSING RIGHTS IN ENGLISH, SPANISH, MANDARIN, VIETNAMESE, FARSI, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN, KREYOL, ARABIC, KHMER, AND TAGALOG.
Outreach: To schedule trainings on COVID-19 protections for tenants, foreclosure prevention, fair housing or constituent outreach please contact Rashida Rattray, at firstname.lastname@example.org