National Equity Atlas Estimates 5.7 Million Renters Owe $19.75 Billion in Rent Debt

The National Equity Atlas and the Right to the City Alliance have released a new Rent Debt Dashboard, which currently estimates that 5,744,000 households are behind on rent and that the total estimated rent debt is $19.75 billion. On that estimate, the average owed by a delinquent household would be about $3,400. The dashboard is accompanied by a report, “Rent Debt in America: Stabilizing Renters is Key to Equitable Recovery.”

The dashboard draws on results from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey to estimate the number of renter households behind on rent, and it draws on the University of Southern California’s Coronavirus Tracking Survey to estimate the average number of months delinquent renters owe. The dashboard also provides further details about the extent to which people of color, low-income households, and households who have lost jobs or employment income are more likely to be behind. Data are available at the national and state level and for the 15 major metropolitan areas surveyed by the Household Pulse Survey. The dashboard also allows users to see county-level estimates of households behind and rent debt per household, which reflect variation in rents seen in the American Community Survey.

The accompanying report explains the estimates in greater detail and the need for policymakers to help struggling renters clear accumulated back rent. The authors note that the Household Pulse Survey indicates 14% of all renter households are behind on rent, though in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Alaska, and Georgia, at least a fifth of renters are behind. While the share behind seems to be declining as the economy continues to reopen, there are still many struggling households, particularly among those who have lost jobs or income and those who were already low-income. They note that renters of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are more likely to owe back rent. The authors call for concerted effort from policymakers to clear this accumulated back rent owed before the expiration of moratoria lead to evictions. They note the importance of ensuring that renters are helped regardless of immigration status or landlord’s willingness to participate in assistance programs.

The dashboard can be found at:

The report is at: