Housing insecurity was a widespread problem among low-income renters well before the COVID-19 pandemic. As of 2019, more than 10 million households spent over half their income on rent. Today, households earning less than $30,000 per year are experiencing the highest rates of job loss and the slowest recovery, while low-income, Black, and Latino or Hispanic workers are hit particularly hard. Millions of families have fallen behind on their rent, accumulating debts they cannot pay. Others have had to double-up with family and friends, living in crowded homes that increase health risks.

Since the start of the pandemic, federal, state, and local governments have provided support for low-income households through three channels. First, the federal CARES Act provided direct financial support to households through expanded unemployment insurance (UI) and stimulus checks. Second, the act allocated funds to state and local governments for rent relief programs. Third, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed a temporary moratorium on evictions.

Nearly one year after the pandemic began, it is useful to reflect on how effective these interventions have been, what challenges remain, and what lessons can be drawn for future policies.

  • Lesson #1: Give people money.
  • Lesson #2: Keep things simple and accessible.
  • Lesson #3: Don't turn off the money printer too quickly. 
  • Lesson #4: Better data enables better policies.

Read the full article about housing lessons by Jenny Schuetz at Brookings.