Millions fear eviction as end of federal moratorium nears

More than 4 million people say they fear being evicted or foreclosed upon in the coming months, just as two studies released Wednesday found that the nation’s housing availability and affordability crisis is expected to worsen significantly following the pandemic.

The studies come as a federal eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of the month. The moratorium has kept many tenants owing back rent housed. Making matters worse, the tens of billions of dollars in federal emergency rental assistance that was supposed to solve the problem has not reached most tenants.

The housing crisis, the studies found, risks widening the gap between Black, Latino and white households, as well as putting homeownership out of the reach of lower-income Americans.

The reports were released on the same day as the U.S. Census Bureau’s biweekly Household Pulse Survey came out. It showed that nearly 4.2 million people nationwide report that it is likely or somewhat likely that they will be evicted or foreclosed upon in the next two months.

Many of those tenants are waiting to see what becomes of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium, which is set expire June 30. Housing advocates are pressuring President Joe Biden’s administration to extend it. They argue extending it would give states the time to distribute more than $45 billion in rental assistance and protect vulnerable communities from COVID-19. The rental assistance has been slow to reach tenants.

“The latest data confirm two things—emergency rental assistance is very slow to reach renters in need, and millions of renters remain behind on rent and at heightened risk of evictions,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, said in an email.

Among those confronting the June 30 deadline is Victor Richardson. The 78-year-old, who is disabled and in a wheelchair, is facing eviction from his $2,500-a-month assisted living center in Tucson, Arizona, and has a court hearing early next month.

“We have been successfully fighting this and I’ve come to believe we are going to come out this victoriously,” said Richardson, who housing advocates said would not be admitted to a homeless shelter because of his disability.

The reports by Harvard University and the National Association of Realtors come from different perspectives, but ultimately reach the same conclusion: The United States isn’t building enough housing to address population growth, causing record low home availability, and rising home prices are putting homeownership out of reach of millions of Americans.

Without substantial changes in homebuilding and home affordability, both reports say, the result will be a more-or-less permanent class of renters contrasted with what will likely be a mostly white class of homeowners. While these problems were known before the coronavirus pandemic, the economic impact of the pandemic exacerbated the problem, the reports say.

“These disparities are likely to persist even as the economy recovers, with many lower-income households slow to regain their financial footing and facing possible eviction or foreclosure,” researchers at Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University wrote.

A separate study commissioned by the National Association of Realtors found that the U.S. housing market needs to build at least 5.5 million new units to keep up with demand and keeping home ownership affordable over the next 10 years. That’s on top of the roughly 1.2 million units built per year on average, or a roughly 60% increase in home construction for the next decade, just to keep up with demand.

“The scale of underbuilding and the existing demand-supply gap is enormous and will require a major national commitment to build more housing of all types by expanding resources, addressing barriers to new development and making new housing construction an integral part of a national infrastructure strategy,” wrote Kenneth Rosen, David Bank, Max Hall, Scott Reed and Carson Goldman with the Rosen Consulting Group, in its report to the association of realtors.

The association’s report points out several regions requiring more homes, including many parts of California and the West, Southern Florida, and the Northeast, particularly the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area.

Without additional housing, an increasing share of Americans are likely to become renters in the coming years. While renting is not necessarily a bad thing since it provides more flexibility, homeownership has been the primary driver of wealth generation in the U.S. since World War II. Home equity is often a way for Americans to have a financial safety net at times of economic trouble, as seen in the pandemic.

These problems get worse when broken out by racial backgrounds. Black and Latino homeowners have less in savings than their white counterparts. White potential homeowners also have generational wealth to potentially tap in the form of a down payment.

“The diverging circumstances between those with the resources to weather the economic shutdowns and those struggling to simply stay afloat thus widened already large inequalities in income and wealth,” said the Harvard researchers.

Outside of a massive increase in homebuilding, researchers at Harvard pointed to government home affordability programs as likely the best solution to address the problem long term.

“Any of a number of new proposals to provide down payment assistance to socially disadvantaged buyers would potentially bring millions of low-income households and households of color into homeownership.”

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9 thoughts on “Millions fear eviction as end of federal moratorium nears

  1. “Making matters worse, the tens of billions of dollars in federal emergency rental assistance that was supposed to solve the problem has not reached most tenants.” Sounds like corruption …. “Hi, I’m from the federal government and I’m here to help you.” People of all origins and walks of life need to accept that they must depend on themselves, not government. You are nothing more than a pawn in the government political chess game and at some point you will be left out in the cold. People like the 78 year old in assisted living deserve and should get assistance. They are the “truly needy”. The vast majority of able bodied, capable individuals need to do what those that pay their rent do. They need to get a job and go to work every day. There are more jobs available than ever before. Maybe not what you think you deserve, but dig in and work your way up. A resume that shows solid attendance and performance is the means to move up the work ladder. The government assistance most need is a “federal alarm clock program”. Giant, loud, alarm clocks that blast until you get up and out the door to your job. Big as a refrigerator if necessary.

    1. Mark, your first assertion that the delay in granting assistance is due corruption is pure guesswork. Please provide evidence – it’s likely typical bureaucratic slowness. Even if true, how is that the fault of those in need of housing assistance?

      Next, your comment about bootstrapping presupposes they are starting from ground zero and are just lazy. What of the people who were doing the right thing, had a job, were paying their bills, then got laid off due to the pandemic? Although job availability has picked up, and many people that fell on hard times are now back to work, the $10-$15/hr jobs aren’t going to get them out of a 3-6 month backlog of overdue rent in a reasonable time. That is precisely what these programs are supposed to provide help.

      Many, many multiples of housing assistance under both Trump and Biden have gone to various business, both small and mom & pop, the airlines, the cruise ship industry (as if that’s a crucial component of our economy), restaurants (mostly deservedly so), and so many more that begrudging people that are about to lose their home or apartment seems unsympathetic.

      I say, wait for the already-funded relief to make its way into the hands of the homeowners/ tenants (or maybe it goes directly to the lenders/ landlords), and then see what is left to pay. If at that point they just cannot get caught up, then the lenders and landlords can do as they must.

    2. “researchers at Harvard pointed to government home affordability programs as likely the best solution” – yeah gooood luck with that one. I agree with you Mark H. Nobody should be relying the government for anything.

    3. how does COVID-19 impact a 78 year-old’s ability to pay rent in an assisted living facility exactly. His social security and/or pension would not have stopped. it seems unlikely that a 78 year old would that was already living in assisted living would lose a job. what financial changes impacted him in that manner

      this article is a bit all over the place . . .

  2. 1) getting low income people into home ownership is a terrible policy. Insane to read an article bemoaning the inability of millions of people to stay current on rent payments and in the same piece say the same people should be homeowners.
    2) less than 20% of whites receive an inheritance (theoretically the “generational wealth” mentioned above) and the average amount is less than $20K. This is not a major reason for the homeownership gap.
    3) At this point if you are significantly arrears in rent and have no means to get straight you should have been planning to move. Landlords have mortgages and bills to pay, and making them eat those costs is not a real solution.
    4) the elephant in the room when it comes to the shortfall of new housing relative to the population is immigration – an issue in which the Democratic party and Chamber of Commerce Republicans have deliberately made significantly worse over the last 30 years. What would the housing market look like without the at least 15 million illegal immigrants we have?

    1. #1 – This program is designed to help those that already owned homes and renters. Also, see my reply above to Mark H.

      #2 – Whites do not wait to buy a house until their parents die – they get loans/ gifts from their parents when they are in their 20s or 30s, so the stat on who gets an inheritance and how much it is to buy a home does not relate to the topic of getting a helping hand due to societal stature.

      #3 – See my reply above to Mark H.

      #4 – Hispanics have a decent homeownership rate of 48%. Blacks are slightly behind at 42%, all races are 65% and Whites are 73%. There are a multitude of reasons Hispanics this is or could be true, but undocumented immigrants have not been shown to be a primary cause. But this is a completely different set of issues that go to our immigration policy in general.

  3. Hold up, folks behind on rent/mortgage payments have not used their stimulus checks and/or unemployment benefits to stay or get current; this is absolutely shocking news!

  4. how does COVID-19 impact a 78 year-old’s ability to pay rent in an assisted living facility exactly. His social security and/or pension would not have stopped. it seems unlikely that a 78 year old would that was already living in assisted living would lose a job. what financial changes impacted him in that manner

    this article is a bit all over the place . . .

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