NEWS

COVID-19, Renters, and Affordable Housing

BY LAUREN ORR

In the United States, there are less than 7 million affordable homes and housing options for the more than 11 million extremely low-income families and individuals that require housing, according to research conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. This crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that made landfall on US soil in March 2020. 

According to the study “The COVID-19 Eviction Crisis” by the Aspen Institute, of the over 100 million Americans in rental housing, 28.9 million to 39.9 million were at risk of eviction in 2020 and approximately 47.5% of renter households were burdened by rental costs in 2018. According to the same study, 10.9 million or 25% of renters were spending over 50% of their income on rent, and only 1 in 4 low-income renters were receiving aid from the federal government.  

A survey conducted by the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future for the NHP Foundation the first week of March 2021 stated that 83% of property owners reported missed rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic as reported from thirteen not-for-profit affordable housing owners representing 104,112 rental units in 49 states, Washington D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. In some of the surveyed areas, the average amount of missed rental payments varied between $1000 and $2,499. 

The study by the Aspen Institute stated that in 2020 more than 20 million households have suffered job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that people of color have been affected at a much higher rate than white Americans. According to the study, 44% of Black Americans and 61% of Hispanic Americans reported that they or someone in their household had experienced job loss or wage reduction in April 2020, compared to 38% of White Americans.  

In the same study, only 30% of renters reported using federal government aid or assistance to pay rent, while another 30% said that they borrowed money from friends and family to pay rent. In the first two quarters of 2020, there was a 43% increase in tenants using credit cards to afford rent compared to the previous year. 

Due to the inability of renters to afford rent, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention issued a national moratorium on eviction in September 2020, which President Joe Biden has extended once more until June 30, 2021, to protect renters from homelessness. However, according to the Institute for Family Studies, once the moratorium ends there is no rule that prevents landlords from immediately requesting back rent or fees or initiating eviction proceedings against renters who are behind on their payments. 

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan or Bill 1319 into law to give more funding to support services to aid Americans and local and state governments as they continue to wrestle with the impact of COVID-19. Along with stimulus checks to each American under a specific annual salary, the American Rescue Plan includes additional funding for emergency rental assistance, housing vouchers, and housing and homelessness assistance. This funding will roll out within 60 days of the bill being signed and will be overseen by the Secretary of the Treasury. 

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