With many federal unemployment benefits introduced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic set to expire at the end of the month, it’s feared that millions of Americans could face eviction from their homes.
HousingWire reports that almost 44 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March, when the pandemic began. And with 110 million people in the U.S. living in rented homes, the Aspen Institute has warned that millions are likely to evicted as they’ll be unable to continue paying their rent. Indeed, it estimates up to 23 million renters could be kicked out of their homes by the end of September.
“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,” said Emily Benfer, the chair of the American Bar Association’s Task Force Committee on Eviction, in an interview on 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.”
Most of these evictions started before March, when the courts were suddenly closed down and prohibitions on evictions began. That’s resulted in a huge backlog of cases, said Megan Booth, director of federal housing, valuation and commercial real estate policy and programs at the National Association of Realtors. So it means that not all of the evictions are related to the pandemic.
The problem for many renters is that the owners of the properties they live in are at risk too, and cannot afford to be sympathetic to their plight.
“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.”
The Aspen Institute’s data suggests that black and Latino renters are likely to be at a higher risk of eviction. The U.S. cities with the highest eviction rates so far this year are North Charleston, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Hampton, Virginia; Newport News, Virginia’ and Jackson, Mississippi.
The NAR, the National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Apartment Association are now calling on the government to provide $144 billion in assistance to help renters avoid being evicted from their homes. Meanwhile, the National Low Income Housing Coalition says a minimum of $100 billion is require to stave off mass evictions.
There is some good news at least. As HousingWire reported, several states and counties have established short term emergency rental assistance programs to help out their residents, including one-time bailouts of a few hundred dollars designed to cover two months’ rent. In addition, some foundations and nonprofit organizations have created emergency funds for struggling renters. Meanwhile, rental groups have called on lawmakers to extend eviction moratoriums and require landlords to accept repayment of past-due rent for at least six months, to give renters more time to find a solution.