The Renters and Rental Market Crisis Working Group

Convening researchers, advocates, industry experts, policymakers, and philanthropic organizations to share data and policy ideas and develop collaborative solutions that will stabilize renters and multifamily owners during the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Low-Income Renters are More Likely to Work in the Five Industries Most Vulnerable to COVID-19 Graph

The need. The COVID-19 public health crisis has caused widespread unemployment, especially for low-income workers who are predominantly renters.

Going into the crisis, many of America’s 44 million renters were more financially vulnerable than the 48 million homeowners with a mortgage, as a much higher share of renters’ monthly income goes toward their housing costs.

Federal, state, and local actors have taken important steps to prevent homelessness and evictions, but it is already clear that these short-term measures are insufficient to the scale of the crisis and its aftermath. Through no fault of their own, many out-of-work renters will not be able to make their rent payments in the coming months, even with the cash assistance provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. And less than a third of rental units are covered by eviction protection, leaving many renters at risk.

At the same time, eviction moratoriums or rent deferment programs that allow renters to temporarily stop paying rent shift the financial burden to property owners, many of whom will be unable to remain solvent if their collections drop significantly. If rent collections decline for several months, some property owners will be forced to address their liquidity issue by selling assets, putting additional pressure on the market by adding a considerable supply of for-sale single-family homes and multifamily properties and leading to further downward pressure in the real estate market. And when moratoriums are lifted, it is not clear what will happen to the millions of renters who may be accruing rent debt.

The result could trigger a ripple effect: tenants lose income and can’t pay rent, which means that property owners and landlords can’t cover operating costs and pay lenders and taxes. As a result, capital markets would tighten, lenders would stop lending, and the rental housing supply could shrink further. Left unabated, these dynamics could exacerbate an already dire crisis for renters.

Insights and information about how this crisis is unfolding on the ground for renters and landlords and in the capital markets is urgently needed to inform public policy and private practice. But the representatives of and advocates for distressed tenants and landlords and capital market players have few opportunities to build a common understanding and quickly forge widely acceptable solutions.  

The goal. Initiated in March 2020, the Renters and Rental Market Crisis Working Group (RCWG) convenes public- and private-sector capital providers, rental housing owners, philanthropic organizations, tenant and civil rights advocates, and research and data analysts to regularly share what they are learning about evolving market dynamics and conditions for renters, owners, and rental markets nationwide.

The RCWG will inform the design and implementation of federal legislative or regulatory efforts as well as state and local policies to address the impending rental crisis by sharpening analysis of solutions with evidence and analysis.

The work. Urban experts, collaborating with other working group researchers and analysts, will collect and present the best current data to the RCWG. Specifically, we seek to create the following:

  • a comprehensive understanding among all participants of the details and efficacy of the proposed federal legislative and regulatory solutions
  • a comprehensive overview of state and local policy solutions (legislative, regulatory, or otherwise) that could be models for other jurisdictions or for federal activity
  • increased understanding among all participants of the concerns, policy recommendations, and perspectives of the other working group members
  • a vehicle to share information across sectors that allows rapid vetting and strengthening of policy options

Renters and Rental Crisis Working Group Research


Sizing Federal Rental Assistance
Urban Institute, October 2020

Renter Stability and Eviction Protections (775.92 KB pdf)
Gary Engelhardt, Syracuse University; Emily Benfer, Wake Forest Law Health Justice Clinic, September 30, 2020

Lessons from the homeownership crisis of the past recession (617.94 KB pdf)
Laurie Goodman, Urban Institute; Faith Schwartz, Housing Finance Strategies, LLC, September 23, 2020

Intersection between COVID-19’s health impacts and the rental market (1.66 MB pdf)
Jason Richardson, National Community Reinvestment Coalition; Dr. Marc Gourevitch; NYU Langone Health, September 16, 2020

Census Pulse survey update (767.96 KB pdf)
Mary Cunningham, September 16, 2020

Emerging models for eviction prevention (497.98 KB pdf)
Jung Choi and Solomon Greene, Urban Institute; Ben Metcalf, UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation; Zach Neumann, COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, September 9, 2020

The impact of state and local budget cuts on renter stability (769.56 KB pdf)
Samantha Batko, Urban Institute; Amanda Cass, University of Illinois; Lauren Lowery, National League of Cities; David Eichenthal, PFM Group Consulting, August 26, 2020

Utilizing data to understand and solve problems in the rental market (2.85 MB pdf)
Ryan Coon, Avail, August 19, 2020

Assessing Options for Federal Rental Assistance during the Pandemic
Martha Galvez, Kate Reynolds, Jorge Morales-Burnett, Yipeng Su, Solomon Greene, Urban Institute, August 5, 2020

Understanding Federal Rental Assistance Options to Stabilize Renters (240.87 KB pdf)
Kate Reynolds, Martha Galvez, Urban Institute, August 5, 2020

State Housing Finance Agencies: Emergency Housing Assistance Programs (195.92 KB pdf)
Stockton Williams, NCSHA, August 5, 2020

Measuring Evictions during the COVID-19 Crisis (423.5 KB pdf)
Hal Martin, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, July 29, 2020

A Looming Public Health Crisis: A New Wave of Homelessness (796.1 KB pdf)
Rosanne Haggerty and Jessica Venegas, Community Solutions; Dan O’Flaherty, Columbia University, July 29, 2020

Role of Unemployment Insurance During the Pandemic (339.8 KB pdf)
Daniel Kuehn, Urban Institute, July 22, 2020

How Much Assistance Is Needed to Help Renters Impacted by COVID 19?
Sarah Strochak, Urban Institute, July 22, 2020

Impact of COVID-19 Crisis by Race and Ethnicity 
Shena Ashley, Monique King-Viehland, Solomon Greene, Urban Institute and Laura Sullivan, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, July 15, 2020

Multifamily Market Update & Outlook
Jay Parsons, Real Page, July 8, 2020

Updates from the Census Pulse Survey
Mary Cunningham and Ananya Hariharan, Urban Institute, June 24, 2020

How Much Assistance Is Needed to Support Renters through the COVID-19 Crisis? (brief)
Sarah Strochak, Aaron Shroyer, Jung Choi, Kathryn Reynolds, and Laurie Goodman, Urban Institute, June 15, 2020

How Much Assistance Is Needed to Help Renters Impacted by COVID-19? (slide show)
Jung Choi and Sarah Strochak, Urban Institute, June 3, 2020

Missing Rent Payments
Solomon Greene, Sarah Strochak, Urban Institute and Rebecca Steele, National Foundation for Credit Counseling, May 27, 2020

State and Local Delivery Mechanisms for Rental Assistance
Solomon Greene and Samantha Batko, Urban Institute, May 20, 2020

Small Multifamily Units Data
Jung Choi, Laurie Goodman, Urban Institute, May 13, 2020

Potential Impact of State and Local Funding Cuts on Affordable Housing
Donnie Charleston, Urban Institute, May 6, 2020

Sizing the Problem
Mary Cunningham, Urban Institute, April 29, 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Straining Families’ Abilities to Afford Basic Needs
Michael Karpman, Stephen Zuckerman, Dulce Gonzalez, and Genevieve M. Kenney, Urban Institute, April 28, 2020

Rental Market Problems Created by the COVID-19 Crisis
Erika Poethig, Urban Institute, April 22, 2020

What the Data Tell Us about the Rental Housing Market Challenges Posed by the COVID-19 Crisis
Mary Cunningham, Urban Institute, April 15, 2020

Avoiding a COVID-19 Disaster for Renters and the Housing Market
Laurie Goodman and Dan Magder, Urban Institute, April 13, 2020

Op-Eds and Blog Posts

The CDC Took an Important Step to Halt Evictions Because of COVID-19. But That’s Only Half the Battle.
Mary Cunningham and Solomono Greene, Urban Institute, September 3, 2020

Four Ways to Keep Renters from Falling Off the Eviction Cliff
Mary Cunningham, Abby Boshart, Ananya Hariharan, Urban Institute, July 13, 2020

To Stay Stably Housed, Renters Need $16 Billion per Month in Housing Support during the COVID-19 Crisis
Aaron Shroyer and Kathryn Reynolds, Urban Institute, June 15, 2020

When Moratoria Lift, How Can State and Local Governments Avoid a COVID-19 Eviction Surge?
Maya Brennan, Housing Matters, May 20, 2020

New Funding Flexibility Is Helping Public Housing Authorities Address Urgent Needs—But Their Long-Term Challenges Could Get Worse
Diane Levy and Leiha Edmonds, Urban Institute, May 20, 2020

Five Ways State and Local Governments Can Strengthen Their Capacity to Meet Growing Rental Assistance Needs
Monique King-Viehland and Corianne Payton Scally, Urban Institute, April 29, 2020

What Can State and Local Governments Do to Stabilize Renters during the Pandemic?
Urban Institute, April 24, 2020

The Rent Is Due – We Need Emergency Rental Assistance from Congress Now
Mary Cunningham and Laurie Goodman, The Hill, April 23, 2020

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Unemployment Benefits for Renters
Mary Cunningham, Laurie Goodman, and Jung Hyun Choi, Urban Institute, April 23, 2020


Check here to explore other Urban Institute research related to protecting people and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.