One in five Americans who live in rentals could face eviction by the end of September as Congressional Republicans move to cut off unemployment assistance and other coronavirus relief, according to an analysis by the Aspen Institute.
This article first appeared in Salon.
More than 20 million people — roughly 20% of the 110 million Americans living in rented homes — could face homelessness by the fall, according to the analysis, which used data from the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.
“We’re… going to face the biggest homelessness crisis that this country has faced in decades, probably since the Great Depression,” former Democratic presidential candidate and HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in an interview with Salon. “We’ve never seen anything like that in our lifetime… Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump — it’s not surprising that they’re so disconnected from the lives of everyday people. That’s what people are thinking about. That’s what they’re worrying about. How am I going to pay the rent?”
The federal government and many state and local governments have issued partial emergency eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, though these vary in degrees of protection and are set to expire in the coming weeks. More than 20 states, including hard-hit Texas and South Carolina, have already allowed eviction proceedings to resume and only about a dozen states will have any eviction protections by the end of the summer unless further action is taken. The federal moratorium, which was implemented under the CARES Act, is set to expire on July 25, after which renters will get 30 days notice of eviction proceedings.
These moratoriums paused evictions but provided no rent relief, meaning that renters unable to pay during the pandemic will be on the hook for months of back rent once they expire.
Though it’s impossible to predict exactly how many people will be affected, “the number is just insanely massive,” said Vincent Reina, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies housing policy.
“I really wonder what is the number that makes people convinced enough that this is actually a topic worth intervening,” he said in an interview. “Without a multi-pronged meaningful response, what you’re going to see is increased levels of eviction, increased levels of housing instability, increased levels of homelessness that have larger ramifications.”
House Democrats approved a $100 billion rental assistance and $75 billion homeowners’ assistance program last month, but it was rejected by Republicans, who called it a non-starter in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has already vowed not to extend the $600-per-week federal unemployment benefits in the next phase of coronavirus relief as Senate Republicans and the Trump administration declare premature victory over the pandemic.
“Every American has been affected from the closure of our economy to caring for the sick and mourning those tragically lost, but under the leadership of President Trump our Transition to Greatness has already begun,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told The Washington Post.
But both the health and economic crises are far from over. The United States hit a record-high 60,000 new confirmed infections in a single day this week and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, predicted that number could soon hit 100,000 per day.
Though Trump has touted recent jobs reports as proof that the crisis has ebbed, economists argue that the economy has been buoyed by unprecedented federal relief, which is now set to expire.
Unemployment rose higher in the first three months of the outbreak in the US than it did during two years of the Great Recession. More than 44 million people have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began, nearly 30% of the entire federal workforce.