It was a busy and productive year for the GCAA Government Affairs Committee. The Committee focused mostly on pandemic related issues and challenges that monopolized almost every sector of our industry in one way or another. 2021 seemed like the year of never ending and ever changing COVID related challenges, such as extensions to the CDC eviction moratorium, executive orders, changes in court operations, endless Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warnings, and numerous U.S. Department of Treasury guidance releases relating to emergency rental assistance, just to name a few. Despite all of these challenges, we accomplished our 2021 legislative agenda and a number of other objectives, including:
- The development of an emergency COVID-19 Rental Assistance Resource Guide to assist owners with helping eligible delinquent residents access rental assistance and pay their rent;
- Educating the public on the industry’s perspective through several public relations campaigns using news media stories and articles that conveyed positive industry spins and the impact of the pandemic on apartment owner operators;
- Developing surveys and providing feedback to our eleven member U.S. congressional delegation that enlightened them on the adverse financial impacts of the eviction moratorium on owner operators and that impacted changes being made to how ERAP is distributed.
- Working with industry partners to intervene in the Mecklenburg County Court’s attempt to unilaterally extend eviction moratoria through procedural delay. While the number of cases per day continued to be limited, the Clerk of Court made operational changes that keep the courtrooms open by utilizing criminal magistrates to fill the seats of civil magistrates who were out for the day and added a new afternoon docket to provide additional court sessions.
While COVID-19 and pandemic related issues kept our committee busy, we were able to navigate other critical issues that continued to consume the industry on a local level, such as housing affordability. Issues relating to the use of the C900 Pipe came about due to a change in local regulation which resulted in significantly increased development costs for developers on housing projects. Numerous committee members worked diligently with local industry partners and local city and county government staff to successfully advocate against the regulatory changes, particularly through our support of HB 489 – 2021 Building Code and Development Regulatory Reform which contained language that approved the use of the C900 pipe in certain applicable projects and was signed by Governor Cooper on August, 30, 2021.
In addition, the City of Charlotte approved its 2040 Comprehensive Plan (policy guidelines) earlier this year and later released a draft of its Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), the regulatory piece that will govern the policy guidelines in the Comprehensive Plan. The Government Affairs Committee submitted feedback to the City on the 2040 Plan that, among many other issues, included a concern relating to the significant economic impact of the Comprehensive Plan on housing affordability. Consequently, the City engaged with UNC-Charlotte to develop an economic impact study and cost/benefit analysis for each housing related goal/policy/initiative proposed.
Finally, fair housing remained on the forefront of our agenda, specifically Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) policies and criminal screening laws. The topics of source of income and criminal screening lingered throughout the year, and the committee remained steadfast in its promotion of streamlining the HCV program and educating members about improvements to the program. We worked with the City of Charlotte and industry partners, such as The Reentry Housing Alliance, to educate owner operators and the broader community about criminal screening and expectations of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2016 Guidance through a series of online seminar offerings.
In addition to actively participating in local and national advocacy issues, the Government Affairs Committee also joined fellow affiliate members in our statewide Lobby Day, utilizing our voices as valuable advocacy tools to converse with GCAA representatives regarding legislative priorities and bills. Our advocacy contributed to the successful passage and enactment of: