Sizing Federal Rental Assistance

Early on in this pandemic, the Urban Institute warned that America’s 44 million renters—who were already particularly vulnerable to economic hardship—would face increased vulnerability during the crisis.

We established the Renters and Rental Market Crisis Working Group to share data and policy ideas and develop collaborative solutions to help stabilize renters and multifamily owners during the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

A critical piece of our work has been to estimate the number of renters impacted by job loss and the cost of assistance needed to keep renters stably housed through the pandemic and resulting economic downturn. As the unemployment situation  has changed, so too have our estimates.

This page pulls together all the blog posts, slides, and briefs on previous and current estimates.

 

Most Recent Estimates

Updated October 1, 2020

National: Our most recent estimate is based on unemployment data between February and August 2020:

  • 5.3 million households have suffered a job loss 
  • Taking into account different unemployment benefit scenarios, between $2.9 and $5.2 billion in monthly assistance is needed to provide enough income support to return these 5.3 million households to their prior rent burden, with a cap of 30 percent
  • Between $1.1 and $2.1 billion in monthly assistance is needed to provide enough rental support to return these 5.3 million households to their prior rent burden, with a cap of 30 percent;
  • Between $11.8 and $13.0 billion in monthly assistance is needed to provide enough rental support to relieve the rent burden for all households (the 5.3 million that are newly rent burdened and 21 million that were rent burdened before the COVID-19 pandemic)

By state: This map of the United States links to 51 fact sheets that provide four critical data points for each state and the District of Columbia:

  • An estimate of the number of jobs lost by household income between February and August 2020
  • The change in share of renter households facing rent burden because of job losses, both before the pandemic and as of August 2020
  • The monthly cost of returning households with a job loss to their prior rent burden, with a cap of 30 percent
  • The monthly cost of alleviating rent burden for all renter households through rental assistance

This most recent estimate reflects Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment data through August 2020. You can find more about the full methodology here.

This blog post provides more context on the fact sheets.

 

Prior Estimates

June 15, 2020 
Original estimate and methodology: In "How Much Assistance Is Needed to Support Renters through the COVID-19 Crisis?,” we explain our methodology and provide an initial estimate of the needed federal rental assistance. The numbers in this brief were based on job loss numbers from mid-February to mid-April. The main points of the brief are explained in the blog post “To Stay Stably Housed, Renters Need $16 Billion per Month in Housing Support during the COVID-19 Crisis.” Highlights from the original brief and analysis are presented in these slides.

June 26, 2020
State data added: In the blog post “What It Would Take for States to Support Renters through the COVID-19 Crisis: A Snapshot of Florida, Michigan, and Idaho” we discuss data by state that were not included in the original analysis and post an updated appendix with data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

July 24, 2020
First update with new unemployment numbers: The numbers in the original brief and blog post were updated based on job loss numbers through June 2020 and presented in this slide deck and explained in the blog post “Reducing the Amount of Federal Unemployment Insurance Would Increase Rent Burden for Millions of Households.”

July 31, 2020
Additional analysis: A new proposal by congressional Republicans was analyzed in the July 31 blog post, “Moving to a 70 Percent Income Replacement for Unemployment Insurance Benefits Will Disproportionately Hurt Low-Income Renters."