The United States may be facing the most severe housing crisis in its history. According to the latest analysis of weekly US Census data, as federal, state, and local protections and resources expire and in the absence of robust and swift intervention, an estimated 30–40 million people in America could be at risk of eviction in the next several months. Many property owners, who lack the credit or financial ability to cover rental payment arrears, will struggle to pay their mortgages and property taxes and maintain properties. The COVID-19 housing crisis has sharply increased the risk of foreclosure and bankruptcy, especially among small property owners; long-term harm to renter families and individuals; disruption of the affordable housing market; and destabilization of communities across the United States.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers, academics, and advocates have conducted a continuous analysis of the effect of the public health crisis and economic depression on renters and the housing market. Multiple studies have quantified the effect of COVID-19-related job loss and economic hardship on renters’ ability to pay rent during the pandemic. While methodologies differ, these analyses converge on a dire prediction: If conditions do not change, 29-43% of renter households could be at risk of eviction by the end of the year.
This article aggregates the existing research related to the COVID-19 housing crisis, including estimated potential upcoming eviction filings, unemployment data, and housing insecurity predictions. Additionally, based on this research and new weekly analysis of real-time US Census Bureau Household Pulse data, this article frames the growing potential for widespread displacement and homelessness across the United States.
The COVID-19 pandemic struck amid a severe affordable housing crisis in the United States
COVID-19 struck when 20.8 million renter households (47.5% of all renter households) were already rental cost-burdened, according to 2018 numbers. Rental cost burden is defined as households who pay over 30% of their income towards rent. When the pandemic began, 10.9 million renter households (25% of all renter households) were spending over 50% of their income on rent each month. The majority of renter households below the poverty line spent at least half of their income towards rent in 2018, with one in four spending over 70% of their income toward housing costs. Due to chronic underfunding by the federal government, only one in four eligible renters received federal financial assistance. With the loss of four million affordable housing units over the last decade and a shortage of 7 million affordable apartments available to the lowest-income renters, many renters entered the pandemic already facing housing instability and vulnerable to eviction.
Before the pandemic, eviction occurred frequently across the country. The Eviction Lab at Princeton University estimates that between 2000 and 2016, 61 million eviction cases were filed in the US, an average of 3.6 million evictions annually. In 2016, seven evictions were filed every minute. On average, eviction judgment amounts are often for failure to pay one or two months’ rent and involve less than $600 in rental debt.
An increase in evictions could be detrimental for the 14 million renter households with children: research from Milwaukee indicates that renter households with children are more likely to receive an eviction judgment. Although tenants with legal counsel are much less likely to be evicted, on average, fewer than 10% of renters have access to legal counsel when defending against an eviction, compared to 90% of landlords. Read Full Article >