Over the past year, job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated housing insecurity among low-income renters. As of January 2021, nearly one in four of the nation’s 43 million renter households reported having missed at least one rent payment during the pandemic.
To prevent widespread displacement that could increase public health risks, federal, state, and local policymakers have used a variety of tools to help families stay in their homes. Direct financial support, such as unemployment insurance, and emergency rent relief funds allowed many renters to catch up on back rent. A nationwide eviction moratorium limited landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent (although the moratorium has been unevenly enforced).
But these measures are temporary, intended as stopgaps until the public health threat recedes and the economy recovers. This raises the question: What will happen to low-income renters when these policies end? Will there be a surge of people displaced from their homes? And where will they go?
To gain some insight into how homelessness changes over macroeconomic cycles, we examine changes in homelessness rates from 2007 to 2020. Our analysis focuses on four metro areas that were particularly hard-hit by the 2007 foreclosure crisis: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Riverside, Calif. Using data collected by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) annual Point-in-Time (PIT) survey, we look at changes over time in homelessness rates, the share of family homelessness, and the percentage of unsheltered homeless persons. We find that homelessness rates declined over time in three of the four metros (Los Angeles saw an increase), but the share of unsheltered homelessness has been rising in recent years.
Read the full article about COVID-19 housing insecurity by Matt Ring and Jenny Schuetz at Brookings.
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