Looking Towards the Future
December draws to a close, we share the sentiment of so many that we will be relieved to put 2020 behind us. The global COVID-19 pandemic has stricken 70 million people and killed 1.6 million, spreading incalculable loss and fear across the globe. The economic fallout has left tens of millions more in poverty, hunger, and homelessness. Historic wildfires have ravaged large swaths of the West. Our country is still coming to terms with one of the most divisive Presidential elections in recent history. And so it makes sense that we look to the future with cautious optimism—2021 can’t be as bad as 2020, right?
- Extended unemployment benefits that have provided a lifeline to 12 million Americans will come to an end on December 26th.
- As many as 14 million American households are at risk of eviction with an estimated $25 billion in rental debt.
- Small-scale landlords are hurting as mortgage payments pile up without the needed rent payments coming in.
Wrong. For millions of housing insecure Americans, 2021 holds more fear than promise. As we write this post, the US is seeing over 200K new COVID-19 cases and over 2,000 deaths every day, both higher than any point during the pandemic. Jobless claims remain stubbornly high and actually increased in the end of November for the first time since late summer. The promise of a vaccine adds some optimism, but realistically the public health and economic climate is not likely to improve in the near future.
The CARES Act, a package of relief measures passed by the Federal government in 2020, provided temporary protection to renters and homeowners. But most of these funds are depleted and many of the protective provisions are set to expire. Extended unemployment benefits that have provided a lifeline to 12 million Americans will come to an end on December 26th. As many as 14 million American households are at risk of eviction with an estimated $25 billion in rental debt, according to analysis from Stout, a global investment bank and advisory firm. Moody’s estimates are even more dire: $70 billion in back rent and utilities payments. With the eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control expiring on December 31st, Stout estimates that 4.9 million Americans are likely to receive eviction notices in January.
We’ve written about the plight of small-scale landlord. The billions in back rent amounts to lost revenues for rental property owners, who typically operate on razor thin margins. Many of these mom-and-pop landlords, who provide most of the nation’s naturally occurring affordable housing, are on the precipice of losing their properties. Those who can hang despite the missed rental payments are not likely to invest in the routine maintenance of their properties, leading to substandard housing conditions and neighborhood blight.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There is hope. Another round of Federal stimulus would certainly help state and local governments patch holes in their budgets—depleted from lost tax revenues—and give them resources to provide support to renters and landlords. Extended state and local policies protecting renters can at least stem the tide of homelessness. And we’ve seen inspiring governments that we are working with take incredible strides to prepare for what’s to come. They are setting up early warning systems to pinpoint housing insecurity and target their limited resources where they are most needed. As 2020 draws to a close, we’ll be sharing more information on how these communities are working with data to help prepare for what’s to come in 2021.