Rents are still rising amid housing shortage
According to the Eviction Lab tracker, more than 86,000 households have been evicted just in the last month, and that number jumps to just over one million over the last 12 months.
While high housing prices means homeownership is no longer a possibility for many Americans, experts point to a rise in rent that is pushing once-affordable rentals out of reach for many American tenants and leading landlords to file for eviction.
The typical rent in the U.S. now sits at $2,050 — 3.3% higher compared to last year — according to a September report from Zillow.
And the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) notes a full-time worker would need to earn $28.58 an hour on average to afford a modest, two-bedroom rental — far higher than the national minimum wage of $7.25.
This puts low-income Americans at major risk of losing out on housing — and facing homelessness.
While monthly rent growth is slowly cooling ahead of the winter months, more low-income workers are rent-burdened, as they struggle with wages that aren’t keeping pace with inflation and no more pandemic programs to help keep them afloat.
To compound this issue, the U.S. is facing a shortfall of 7.3 million rental homes that are affordable to renters with extremely low incomes (incomes at or below either the federal poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income), reports the NLIHC.
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Who is at greatest risk of eviction?
Just over half of the 7.6 million individuals highlighted in the newest Eviction Lab report lived in a household that received an eviction judgment.
But aside from spotlighting how many people face eviction, the report points to a surprising group most at risk for removal from a rental property: Children.
Each year, 2.9 million children under 18 are threatened with eviction, while 1.5 million are evicted — representing 2 in 5 of the entire population that face eviction each year.
“When I started writing about these issues, I kind of thought kids would shield families from eviction,” said Matthew Desmond, principal investigator at The Eviction Lab, in an interview with The New York Times. “But they expose families to eviction.”
The eviction filing rate for adults living with a child was 10.4%, over double the risk for those without children. This increased risk could be due to additional financial costs — like higher grocery and child-care costs — reduced working hours or even discrimination from landlords who might not want to deal with potential noise and damage.
There are significant racial disparities as well. While less than one in five renters in the U.S. is Black, over half of all eviction notices are filed against Black renters and about one in 10 are evicted each year.
In comparison, only one in 24 white renters are threatened with eviction and one in 40 are evicted annually.
“The face of the eviction epidemic is moms and kids, especially poor moms from predominantly Latino and African American neighborhoods,” Desmond told The Atlantic back in 2016, noting that about one in five African American women who rent report being evicted at some point in their lives.
Eviction risk generally decreases with age and income, although the study notes this is far from just a young person’s problem, with nearly 830,000 renters over 50 facing the threat of eviction each year.
What needs to change?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced emergency rental assistance programs that prevented eviction filings from spiraling out of control as many Americans lost their jobs or faced reduced working hours, leaving them unable to afford their monthly rent.
In fact, The Eviction Lab reported earlier this year that COVID-era policies slashed eviction filings by more than half, compared to pre-pandemic times.
Diane Yentel, CEO and president of the NLIHC, says these protections need to come back.
“We absolutely should make this program permanent and permanently funded, keep this infrastructure that we built throughout the country, build off of these lessons that we learned, and continue to keep people stably housed into the future,” Yentel told PBS News in June.
She believes the housing crisis can be resolved with short-term emergency rental assistance programs and longer-term rental assistance. She also emphasizes the importance of preserving and building more apartments that are affordable to folks with extremely low incomes, as well as robust tenant protections.
“But it's going to require increased political will at all levels to be able to get the solutions at the scale needed to truly address this challenge,” she said.
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden proposed a new budget to lower housing costs, expand supply, improve access to affordable rental options and increase efforts to end homelessness and prevent housing discrimination.
But with the government narrowly avoiding a shutdown and Congress in disarray after Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted as speaker, the Biden Administration is facing an uphill battle to move forward with any legislation in the Republican-controlled House.
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