Interventions needed to avoid a “wave” of seizures, evictions: report
As the United States recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, averting some of the worst fears of an economic collapse, experts warn millions of families are still at risk of losing their homes.
Directory Nationwide Housing Condition Report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that 2.3 million homeowners are behind on their mortgages and risk foreclosure, while millions more are behind on rent. With federal decrees Putting an end to some deportations and seizures which expire on June 30, the report warns of a “potential crisis”.
The end of these policies, the report said, could “trigger a wave of evictions and foreclosures unless federal aid from the latest relief plan is implemented quickly and effectively.” The economic fallout from the pandemic has caused more than half of all renter households to lose incomes in the past year, according to Census Bureau data, which the Harvard report says could leave tenants in dire straits. desperate as home prices continue to rise.
“In order to significantly improve housing affordability and address the many challenges compounded by the pandemic, policymakers at all levels of government must work together to reduce barriers to the production of low-cost homes,” Daniel McCue , a senior research associate at the center and a senior author of the report, said at a virtual event on Wednesday. He added that policymakers should “reduce the many persistent racial and ethnic disparities in the burden of housing costs, home ownership and household wealth that have been reinforced by the pandemic.”
Overall, the report found that home sales have rebounded from their early drop in the pandemic and prices have risen rapidly. Citing data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the report found that 85 of the 100 metropolitan areas tracked had double-digit increases in house prices in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the previous year. However, the country is also experiencing a “historically tight supply”, with the existing housing stock declining by around 30% between March 2020 and March 2021.
This division was especially pronounced for minorities, as the homeownership rate for blacks was 46% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to 74% for white residents of the United States.. Black, Hispanic and Asian homeowners were also more than twice as likely to be late on their mortgage payments as white homeowners and were more likely to be behind on rent or face evictions.
At the start of the pandemic, fears of evictions and foreclosures were rampant as millions of people lost their jobs or faced health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented an order ending evictions in September 2020. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, passed last spring, included a moratorium on foreclosures for homeowners and mandatory forbearance from mortgage payments, as well as direct assistance to those who have lost jobs or face health care costs.
Several cities have also intervened with their own policies. Philadelphia spent the Emergency Housing Protection Act in June 2020, offering tenants mediation resources and a temporary waiver of late fees, helping to reduce the number of evictions. Other empty converted hotels in temporary housing for the homeless. Meanwhile, Kansas City provided lawyers to represent tenants facing evictions.
The policies have helped “protect those who have felt disproportionate pain,” Erika Poethig, special assistant to the president on housing and urban policy at the White House Home Policy Council, said when the report was released. But with the moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures expiring before July, she said attention has now turned to permanent policies to help protect the housing market. The US bailout, adopted in March 2021, provided for $ 21.6 billion in emergency rental assistance.
The White House is also offering more housing vouchers to help low-income families and has offered more than $ 200 billion in grants and tax credits to increase the supply of housing in the American employment plan infrastructure package. In a June 17 memo on “The State of the Housing Market,” the Treasury Department outlined strategies to address “the long-term structural problems causing the affordable housing shortage“, with investments for encourage construction.
âThe next time we are faced with a crisis, we will not need emergency rental assistance,â said Poethig. “We will have a safety net that can catch people as they come in and out of crises.”
Clarence Anthony, executive director of the National League of Cities, said city governments have been particularly nimble in protecting residents from housing issues and will continue to provide federal and state assistance. But, he added, the pandemic has also shed new light on the racial and economic divide in housing affordability, an issue that will require continued attention after COVID-19 resumes.
âWe have to be creative, we have to be responsive and we have to have partners in federal and state governments and community organizations,â said Anthony. “Only if we recognize that we have this challenge will we come together and meet it.”