The Looming Eviction Cliff

Brief

The Looming Eviction Cliff

Abstract

As the United States heads into its tenth month struggling to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, social distancing is critical. And though having a home is important for social distancing, millions of Americans risk losing theirs when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium ends January 31. Eviction and subsequent homelessness or doubling up in and sharing overcrowded housing can accelerate virus spread, leaving people who lose their housing at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and increasing community spread of the virus. In this brief, we use new data from the second wave of the Urban Institute’s Coronavirus Tracking Survey, conducted September 11 through 28, 2020, to explore the pandemic’s impact on housing stability and renters’ vulnerability to eviction. We find that nearly 14 percent of renters, or 9.5 million renters, reported problems paying rent in the previous 30 days. People of color are disproportionally affected by COVID-19, unemployment, and housing instability, and these numbers mask significant differences by race and ethnicity. More than one in four renters worried about being able to pay rent in the next month. Almost one in two Hispanic/Latinx renters and more than one in four Black renters were worried about paying next month’s rent.  About 5 percent of renters, or 3.3 million renters, reported receiving an eviction notice or threat of eviction from their landlords since the beginning of March 2020. Within this group, Black and Hispanic/Latinx renters were more likely than white renters to have received an eviction notice or been threatened with eviction since March. The $25 billion for rental assistance recently allocated by Congress will go a long way in helping renters, but will not be enough to address back rent owed, and provide ongoing housing assistance. These funds should prioritize the highest need households.

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