Could 20 Million Renters Be at Risk of Eviction?
July 14, 2020
As some federal unemployment benefits set in place as a result of the pandemic are about to expire at the end of this month, millions of Americans could be faced with uncertainty—particularly renters.
Since mid-March, 44 million Americans have filed for unemployment, HousingWire reports. About 110 million people live in rented households in the U.S., and the Aspen Institute warns that mass evictions could be on the horizon. They warn that one in every five renters could potentially face eviction. And if unemployment remains high, up to 23 million renters could be evicted by Sept. 30.
“We can expect [evictions] to increase dramatically in the coming weeks and months, especially as the limited support and intervention measures that are in place start to expire,” Emily Benfer, the chair of the American Bar Association’s Task Force Committee on Eviction, told CNBC. “About 10 million people, over a period of years, were displaced from their housing following the foreclosure crisis in 2008. We’re looking at 20 million to 28 million people in this moment, between now and September, facing eviction.”
Many of these evictions began prior to March when courts closed down and eviction prohibitions started, which has resulted in a backlog, says Megan Booth, director of federal housing, valuation, and commercial real estate policy and programs for the National Association of REALTORS®. So, not all evictions are directly related to layoffs due to the pandemic.
Unable to collect rent will likely put the property owners at risk, too. “The owners that are most likely to be affected by the eviction crisis right now are those who have small properties and don’t have the financial cushion to make ends meet over a period of months when they’re not receiving that rent,” Benfer told CNBC. “Once that’s in place, we really need to start addressing the root cause of the eviction crisis and the lack of affordable housing.”
Moreover, Black and Latino renters may be at the highest risk for eviction, the Aspen Institute’s data reports. The U.S. cities that have faced the highest eviction rates so far this year are North Charleston, S.C.; Richmond, Va.; Hampton, Va.; Newport News, Va.; and Jackson, Miss.
NAR, the National Apartment Association, and National Multifamily Housing Council are calling on $144 billion needed in assistance to help renters avoid eviction; the National Low Income Housing Coalition says $100 billion is the minimum needed.
Several states and counties are establishing short-term emergency rental assistance programs, such as one-time bailouts of a few hundred dollars to cover two months of rent. Also, foundations and nonprofits are creating emergency funds for renters. Rental groups are also calling on policymakers to extend eviction moratoriums as well as require landlords to accept repayment of past-due rent over at least six months.
“20 Million Renters Are at Risk of Eviction; Policymakers Must Act Now to Mitigate Widespread Hardship,” The Aspen Institute (June 19, 2020) and “More Than 20 Million Renters Could Soon Be Evicted,” HousingWire (July 13, 2020)
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Updated: January 19, 2021