Many Renters Lack Resources to Cover Unexpected Expenses or Buy a Home

The Federal Reserve Board released its fourth annual Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households on May 19. The report is based on a Federal Reserve survey of households’ economic well-being and risks to their financial security. Forty-four percent of adults reported that they could not cover an unexpected expense of $400 without selling something or borrowing money. With regard to housing, nine percent of renters who had moved in the previous two years did so because of an eviction or the threat of an eviction. The survey also indicated that many renters lack the financial resources to buy a home.

The survey explored renters’ experiences, including the reasons for renting, landlord responsiveness, and expectations for homeownership. Fifty-seven percent identified their inability to afford a down payment to buy a home, inability to quality for a mortgage, or both as a reason for their renting. Twenty-eight percent of renters opted to rent because it was more convenient. Thirteen percent were currently looking to buy a home. Renters were allowed to provide more than one reason for renting.

Forty-nine percent of renters had reported a problem to their landlord sometime during the previous year. Black and Hispanic renters were more likely than white renters to have a problem getting their landlord to fix the problem. Among renters who reported a problem, 42% of black renters, 44% of Hispanic renters, and 28% of white renters had moderate or substantial difficulty in getting their landlord to fix the problem. The report notes that part of this disparity may reflect differences in the types of landlords or property management companies renting to different populations.

Thirty-seven percent of renters reported that they expected to purchase a home within the next five years. More than 74% of these renters said one reason they expected to buy a home was because they will have saved enough money for a down payment. Sixty-eight percent of them also expected to have higher income to buy a home within the next five years.

Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2016 is available at: