Aid Package Will Only Postpone Inevitable Housing Crisis

Public Health; Research

As part of the new $900 billion federal stimulus package, the moratorium on evictions for renters will be extended by one month, through the end of January. The help could not come soon enough, said an expert on social and economic development at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

However, without more intentional, long-term solutions and investments, this aid will only postpone an inevitable housing crisis, a new survey shows.

“Data from our recent survey indicates that the impact of COVID-19 on homeowners not only still exists, but it has significantly worsened, especially among Black and Hispanic households and young adults,” said Michal Grinstein-Weiss, the Shanti K. Khinduka Distinguished Professor and director of the university’s Social Policy Institute.

Grinstein-Weiss is the principal investigator for the institute’s Socioeconomic Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. The survey was administered in late April and early May (Wave 1) and late August (Wave 2) to over 5,000 nationally representative U.S. households each time.

“We found that the eviction/foreclosure rate of Black and Hispanic respondents increased by 7% as compared to only 2% among white respondents,” Grinstein-Weiss said. “Additionally, Black respondents were almost twice as likely to be forced to move as non-Hispanic white respondents in Wave 2 (late August), despite being least likely to be forced to move during Wave 1 (early May). While the jump in eviction risk among Black households is certainly alarming, Hispanic respondents maintain the highest vulnerability to eviction among the three groups both in Wave 1 and Wave 2.”

In addition to severe disparities in housing hardships based on race and ethnicity, the survey indicated a significant increase in hardship over time among young adults.

“In both survey waves, young adults (18-39 years old) were the most vulnerable to housing-related hardships, followed by middle-aged adults (40-54 years old), then older adults (55+ years old), and Wave 2 further widens the gap,” Grinstein-Weiss said.

Nearly twice as many young adults reported both eviction/foreclosure and mortgage/rent delinquency, or payment delay, in August as compared to May.

“This is compounding the financial situation of young adults who have had a shorter amount of time to accumulate protective financial assets, making it harder to weather the shock of the pandemic,” she said.

“Every member of society is impacted by this housing situation. Stable shelter is an essential tool to combat the spread of the coronavirus.”

For more from Grinstein-Weiss and co-author Yung Chun about their findings related to housing hardships, visit the Brookings Institution blog. Other research from the Socioeconomic Impacts of COID-19 Survey in the U.S. and Israel are available at the Social Policy Institute’s website.