COVID-19 led to pauses on mortgage and rent payments and moratoriums on evictions. As deadlines for regulations near, several data sources suggest fewer owners and renters will be affected:
The share of mortgage borrowers in forbearance programs fell below 4% as of June 8, the lowest level since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Black Knight Inc., a company in Jacksonville, Fla., that provides data and software to mortgage lenders and servicers…
In August, Census projected that there were 1.7 million American adults living in households that weren’t current on their mortgage payments and who thought it was very or somewhat likely that they would lose their homes in the next two months. By just before Christmas that was up to 1.9 million. It fell to 1.2 million by March and was around 900,000 in the latest survey covering May 26 to June 7.
The trend is similar for renters. In August Census projected that there were 3.8 million American adults living in households that were behind on the rent and who thought it was very or somewhat likely that they would lose their homes in the next two months. Just before Christmas the total was 5.2 million. It dropped to 3 million in March. In the latest period it edged back up to 3.2 million.
This is still a large number of people and there are additional concerns:
That’s not to say all is well. Many people fall through the cracks. In an analysis of the latest Census data, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that one in five renters in households with children were behind on the rent as of the May 26-June 7 survey. There are also disparities by race. While 10% of non-Latino White households were behind on the rent, 16% of Latino households and 24% of Black households were behind on the rent.
COVID-19 helped bring to the forefront the issue of housing facing many Americans. On one hand, someone could say that COVID-19 was such an unusual event that affected so many jobs. On the other hand, there are other social changes – think automation or the decline of major sectors in the economy – that could also affect the ability for many Americans to find and keep decent housing. Add to this the other oddities of the COVID-19 housing market, including those with resources could leave cities and the limited supply of housing, and there are numerous issues to consider.
More broadly, this offers an opportunity to discuss housing in the United States. Should people be afraid for their housing in a time of crisis? Where is more affordable housing going to come from? What should landlords, builders, and investors expect in times of economic trouble? Is housing itself a primary driver in the inequality in wealth and access to housing? How much should income be tied to the quality of housing?
These are not new questions but perhaps ones that are more pressing in light of current events. Of course, addressing housing at a national scale is not easy. Yet, the number of people still in a housing lurch in the coming months might help move the conversation on housing forward.