30-40 Million People in America Could Be Evicted from Their Homes by the End of 2020

New research shows that without significant federal intervention, the COVID-19 housing crisis will result in widespread evictions and an increase in homelessness.

Washington, DC – Today, 9 prominent institutes and organizations released new research that concluded that 30-40 million people in America are at risk of losing their homes in the next several months without swift and significant federal intervention. Twenty-nine to forty-three percent of renter households could be at risk of eviction by the end of the year.

These findings were developed by researchers from the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program, City Life, the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, The Eviction Lab at Princeton University, the Innovation for Justice Program at the University of Arizona College of Law, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Stout, and Wake Forest University School of Law.

Aggregating research from the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, projected eviction filings, unemployment data, and housing insecurity statistics, this cross-institutional team of academics and policy experts determined that without at least $100 billion in emergency rental assistance and a nationwide moratorium on evictions, millions of renters who are currently experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus will face displacement and homelessness on a historic scale.

Evictions have significant, negative consequences for both renters and the communities they live in. Though renters are at greatest risk for long-term impacts, lack of rental income places rental property owners in vulnerable positions. More than 50% of small landlords do not have access to credit that might help them in an emergency and may struggle to pay mortgages and maintain properties if renters are unable to make payments.

Eviction risk is escalating rapidly, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey. Eighteen percent of renters nationally report that they were unable to pay July’s rent on time. Forty-three percent of renter households with children and 33% of all renter households have slight or no confidence that they can pay August rent on time. Among renter households earning less than $35,000 per year, 42% have slight or no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent.

Because communities of color, particularly Black and Latinx people are more likely to be rent-burdened and have been affected by COVID-19-related job loss at a higher rate, this population has consistently reported low confidence in the ability to pay rent during the pandemic. The Survey indicated that nearly half of Black (42%) and Latinx (49%) renters have slight or no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent on time, a figure that is twice as high as white renters (22%).

The eviction crisis and its devastating outcomes are entirely preventable. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed essential housing and homelessness protections in both the “HEROES Act” and the “Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act.” In the Senate, Senator Brown, Senator Warren and others have introduced and cosponsored multiple essential bills to provide housing stability during the pandemic.

The authors of this research report call on Congress to move with urgency to enact meaningful housing provisions and resources in the next coronavirus relief spending bill. Without significant federal intervention, 30-40 million people in America—families with children, people with disabilities, and seniors—will lose their homes. 

“Without a significant and sustained federal intervention, America will experience an increase in homelessness the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Allowing tens of millions of people to lose their homes during a pandemic is cruel and senseless: evictions risk lives, drive families deeper into poverty, and make it much more difficult for the country to contain the virus. Keeping people affordably and stably housed during this public health emergency is both a moral imperative and a public health necessity.” 

“Every day, renters call us in a panicked state," said Lisa Owens, executive director of City Life/Vida Urbana. "They are afraid of losing their apartments because they can’t pay the rent next month. They are anxious about what will happen after the moratorium ends.  They feel powerless to deal with harassing behavior and threats of eviction. This is their daily reality. We must act now if we are going to save the homes of tens of millions of families.”  

“As we have been modeling eviction risk during the pandemic, I have been terrified by what might happen if Congress didn't act by the end of July,” said Sam Gilman, co-founder of the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. “It is not too late, but non-action means Great Depression level suffering for tens of millions of Americans who are at risk of losing the homes they live in.”  

“Renters across the U.S. have run out of time,” said Zach Neumann, founder and executive director of the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project and Researcher, Aspen Institute. “Absent significant rent relief and a new eviction moratorium from Congress, the United States is going to face displacement and homelessness on a historic scale.”

“When the existing and emerging research is aggregated, there is only one conclusion that can be drawn: COVID-19 is about to deliver an unprecedented housing crisis,” said Stacy Butler, director, Innovation for Justice Program at the University of Arizona College of Law.  “This crisis will shake the housing market to its core, and millions of renters and property owners are in the wake.  It’s not too late, but we need action from our leadership now.”

"Unless the United States immediately invests in eviction prevention, we can expect the pillars of resiliency-employment, education, health care and housing-to splinter across the country, especially among communities of color who entered the pandemic at a deficit due to systemic and structural racial discrimination,” said Emily Benfer, law professor at Wake Forest University School of Law and co-creator of the Eviction Lab COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard. “Ultimately, only a long-term solution to housing precarity can protect the millions of Americans who are accruing significant amounts of back rent and the landlords and communities who rely on rent payments.”

This research report is available at: https://tinyurl.com/y38caw96