According to that data, “30 percent of Black renters, 22 percent of Asian renters, and 21 percent of Latino renters said they were not caught up on rent, compared to 12 percent of white renters. The rate was 19 percent for American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and multiracial adults taken together.” The Biden administration definitely acknowledges this in Tuesday’s announcement, writing: “People of color face even greater hardship and are more likely to have deferred or missed payments, putting them at greater risk of eviction and foreclosure.”
The agencies that extend home loans—Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Agriculture—will take three actions: extending the moratorium on foreclosures until July 1; allowing homeowners to apply for mortgage payment forbearance through June 30; and providing as much as six months of additional mortgage payment forbearance for those who enroll by June 30. The Federal Housing Finance Agency—the independent agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—acted last week to extend forbearance on mortgage payments under those programs for another three months. The White House says that 70% of single-family home mortgages are covered by these combined federal actions, and that these “policies will provide critical support to homeowners of color, who make up a disproportionate share of borrowers with delinquent loans and loans in forbearance due to COVID-related hardship.”
As of now, the ban on rental evictions expires March 31. The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief legislation the House and Senate are now working out would provide $30 billion in rental assistance. It has a hard March 15 deadline because that’s when expanded unemployment insurance benefits expire, but the eviction moratorium can and should still be extended regardless of congressional action because renters have received the least assistance in housing so far in the pandemic. The eviction moratorium hasn’t prevented renters from being evicted for reasons other than inability to pay their rent, and a loophole has left many mobile home owners unprotected.
That $30 billion is just over half what experts estimate is owed in overdue rent and utility payments. Diane Yentel, president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, pegs that figure at $57 billion, “far beyond what they can ever pay off.” Even with the $25 billion in emergency assistance passed late last year, Yentel warns that there’s going to have to be much more spent, noting that there was already a crisis in affordable housing before the pandemic.
An analysis of pandemic relief Politico completed last summer showed how deep in the hole Black households—both renters and homeowners—already were, with the federal housing aid disproportionately helping white households. “The federal assistance favors homeowners over renters, and because white households are more likely to own homes—a long-standing trend with roots in racist housing policy—they have more access to aid,” the analysis found. “Black households are more likely to rent than any other group, so they will be hardest hit with evictions likely to proceed in states without moratoriums, including Texas and Georgia.”
“Our failure to address real systemic policy for renters is hurting Black and Brown people more than it’s hurting white people,” Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project, told Politico. “In this time when we’re bailing out lots of different parts of the economy,” he said, “somehow we expect that renters are going to be able to come up with the rent every month.” That “seems like an absurd outcome out of this.” That’s what the White House and Congress have to figure out while they’re mulling over what to do about the eviction moratorium: how to protect the most vulnerable communities, keep them housed, and make sure that landlords aren’t losing everything as well.