Poll and sign-on letter reveal that the public wants urgent action from Congress to provide housing stability during & after the coronavirus outbreak.
Washington, DC – “Rent is due today and millions of people in America can’t afford to pay,” said Diane Yentel National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) president and CEO. “Without significant federal intervention, a wave of evictions and a spike in homelessness will devastate individuals, communities, and our economy. Congress must act with urgency to prevent this unnecessary and costly outcome.”
Before COVID-19, the country was in the grips of a pervasive affordable housing crisis: more than half a million people experienced homelessness in the U.S. each night and a national shortage of 7 million affordable apartments left fewer than four affordable homes available for every 10 extremely low-income renters. Eight million of the lowest-income renters paid at least half of their limited income on rent, leaving them one financial emergency away from eviction and, in worst cases, homelessness.
For many of these renters, the coronavirus is the financial emergency. More than half of low-income households report a recent and sudden job loss or decline in income due to the pandemic. In the first week of May, only 74% of renters in older, lower-cost apartments were able to pay rent, compared to nearly 90% of those in luxury apartments. Many low-income renters who paid rent in May did so with one-time stimulus checks or credit cards. A patchwork of federal, state, and local eviction moratoriums has given short-term relief to some renters but leaves many unprotected and create a financial cliff when moratoriums expire, and back rent is due.
State and local eviction moratoriums are expiring rapidly, and courts are beginning to process a backlog of evictions: twelve states ended eviction moratoriums in May, and another six are set to allow evictions to move forward over the next two weeks. In the short-term, increased evictions and homelessness have enormous individual and public health consequences. In the long-term, evictions create a spiraling into poverty that is difficult to reverse, with myriad costs to families, communities, and the country. Congress should immediately implement a uniform, national moratorium on evictions for the duration of the public health emergency.
But eviction moratoriums alone are not enough. Without further action, this crisis will result in a depleted national housing stock and low-income renters burdened with more debt. Some states and localities have cobbled together resources to provide rental assistance and prevent evictions, but these programs are shutting down within hours or days after funds are depleted. Throughout the country, demand for rental assistance and eviction prevention far outstrips resources.
The results from the Opportunity Starts at Home national public opinion poll reveals that the vast majority of people in America – on a bipartisan basis - are deeply concerned about housing instability as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and are demanding rental assistance, eviction prevention, and investments in housing resources. The poll shows that 80% of people in America think it’s important for the government to help people cover housing costs during the coronavirus outbreak and 60% believe the government is doing too little to make sure people can cover housing costs. Results of the poll prove that across racial and political spectrums, most people in America want major action from the government. On a bipartisan basis, people in America want the government to:
- Provide emergency rental assistance for people who are struggling to afford the rent and are at serious risk of eviction as a result of the coronavirus outbreak (93% favor);
- Expand funding for homeless assistance programs that minimize the number of people living in large shelters by providing them with alternative individual spaces for isolation and self-quarantine (90% favor); and
- Enact a uniform, nationwide policy that stops all evictions during the coronavirus outbreak (89% favor).
Almost 600 organizations joined NLIHC in urging Congress to include the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act—$100 billion in flexible funds for emergency rental assistance—in the final coronavirus relief package and urged the Senate to immediately enact the critical housing investments and protections included in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. These critical investments are needed to help keep America's lowest-income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, low-wage workers, and others stably housed during and after this public health and economic crisis.
“Every day of inaction in the Senate puts more low-income households at immediate risk of losing their homes,” said Diane Yentel NLIHC president and CEO. “Across the country and across party lines, people in America overwhelmingly want Congress to act to keep people stably housed. They should heed the call. Now more than ever, housing is healthcare; ensuring housing stability for all is both a moral imperative and a public health necessity.”
About NLIHC: Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that ensures people with the lowest income in the United States have affordable and decent homes.