More must be done to help struggling renters on top of the Trump administration’s newest eviction moratorium until the end of the year, according to one housing expert.
“Eviction moratoriums are essential, but on their own they’re not enough because they create a financial cliff for renters to fall off when eviction moratoriums expire and back rent is owed,” said Diana Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a nonprofit housing advocacy. “So it’s essential that an eviction moratorium like this be paired with substantial and sustained emergency [assistance].”
In a conversation with Yahoo Finance, Yentel warned that without a bill providing monetary aid to renters on the verge of eviction, Americans may see a wave of homelessness.
“We’ve delayed the wave for a few months, but we will still have to reckon with it if Congress doesn’t provide the resources to keep people stably housed,” Yentel said.
‘You’re always one financial emergency from missing rent’
The eviction crisis that the country is facing now because of the COVID-19 outbreaks stems from a “severe affordable housing crisis” that existed before, when there was a shortage of 7 million homes, Yentel said.
About 1 in 2 Americans who rent are either severely rent-burdened or moderately rent-burdened, according to a study by the Department of Housing Studies at Harvard University.
“So because we had such a shortage, we had 10 million extremely low, very low-income renters who were paying half of their income towards rent and many were paying much more, 60%, 70%, 80% of their income just to keep a roof over their head,” Yentel said. “When you have such limited income to begin with and pay so much of it for your home, you’re always one financial emergency from missing rent.”
Many of those renters were also the most likely to lose their jobs and wages during the pandemic.
“So for many of these same renters, coronavirus was that financial emergency,” she said.
A good time ‘to really re-look at our housing policies’
Disparities only deepened during the pandemic, but the period can serve as a lesson to policymakers, Yentel said.
“It’s a good time for the United States to really re-look at our housing policies,” she said, “and see what changes need to be made post-pandemic or even during the pandemic to help those who were already struggling.”
But the fate of another stimulus relief package remains in limbo in Washington, D.C., even though helping renters could aid in curbing the spread of the virus..
“We need to keep people who are experiencing homelessness safe and healthy and get them housed as quickly as possible,” Yentel said. “Then we need to make sure that tens of millions more families don’t become homeless during the pandemic [since] our collective health depends on our ability to stay home.”