By Tara Gibson - September 16, 2020
A group of housing researchers released a new report in August that found between 30 and 40 million people in the United States could be at risk of eviction in the next several months. These shocking numbers came from aggregated existing research related to the housing crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The researchers said the current situation could be “the most severe housing crisis” in the nation’s history, according to Market Watch.
When COVID-19 hit and began to rapidly spread across the country, businesses shut down causing unemployment rates to skyrocket, essentially putting millions of Americans at a disadvantage and unable to pay their bills. Without this source of income, state and local leaders quickly took action to protect residents by enacting eviction moratoriums.
Even with temporary moratoriums in place, research from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found that nearly half of all renter households were already cost-burdened, with a third of their income going towards rent. With that income taken away, American’s are struggling to pay bills in order to have a safe place to live.
Unfortunately, eviction bans have begun lapsing in most states just as the supplemental unemployment benefits have also ended. "Now you're in a moment where you still haven't gone back to work, most government benefits have stopped, and the rent is still due," says the Aspen Institute's Zach Neumann to NPR, who founded the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.
More data shows that a third of all renters nationwide failed to make a full housing payment as of the first week of August, more than one-quarter of Black renters nationwide missed last month’s rental payment, and nearly one in six Black renters said they have no confidence that they will be able to pay the following month’s rent, as per Market Watch.
Additionally, 43% of renter households with children and 33% of all renter households have slight or no confidence that they can pay August rent on time, and among renter households earning less than $35,000 per year, 42% have slight or no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent. Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, explained to NPR that the coming surge in evictions is both a health problem and an economic problem.
"There's tremendous urgency," says Yentel, "There are millions of renters who can't sleep at night because they don't know what they're going to do if they become homeless."
For homeowners and homebuyers, the housing market situation is much different. Mortgage rates across the country have fallen to record lows, resulting in thousands of homeowners refinancing their home loans, and many prospective home buyers flooding the market to purchase properties and lockdown low mortgage rates.
For homeowners struggling with financial troubles, there are fortunately still lifelines available through the CARES Act, which stipulates that any homeowner with a federally backed mortgage could still receive forbearance for up to a year, according to Market Watch. This means homeowners can make reduced monthly payments or skip paying altogether.
Although this is great news, there are long-term impacts for rental property owners and small landlords as there is a lack of rental income, which puts them in a vulnerable position. The National Low Income Housing Coalition tells us that 50% of small landlords do not have access to credit that may help them in an emergency, meaning they may themselves struggle to pay mortgages and maintain rental properties.
The eviction crisis is real. Many are calling on the federal government, which is working to determine where funding can go, with many hoping the next coronavirus relief spending bill will include more housing provisions and resources over the coming months.
Until this is clarified, state and local leaders must effectively communicate with communities and reassure them of what can be done or if any bans have been extended. For example, in Florida, a temporary ban was extended allowing renters to appeal for more time to pay rent amid this uncertain time.
It's likely that state agencies will be inundated with requests, calls, and questions as community members will be in need of assistance. Watch the below video for ways to handle this influx of requests and how critical communications can help:
By leveraging a mass notification solution, government leaders can send out timely and relevant alerts to residents and create targeted notifications with SMS opt-in - which would require citizens to opt-in to specific messaging about housing provisions via a shortcode and keyword – to get the word out on what to expect and what’s to come. For those who risk eviction without any ban extensions in sight, leaders can also share helpful resources and information about places they can stay in the meantime, if possible.
Another tool that has proven to be helpful during this time is a vulnerable needs registry. By leveraging this technology, leaders can enable faster communications to citizens in need throughout the course of the pandemic. Residents provide their own data, such as if they’re an at-risk population or homeless, which can help state and local leaders with their emergency planning and community support efforts.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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