Pandemic Diary Entry #57
August 24, 2020
We are nearing the end of August and the beginning of what could become a devastating housing crisis.
August 1st saw the end of many of the Federally funded programs that helped stave off catastrophe for the many people that lost their livelihoods due to this pandemic.
August will also bring the end of most every rental moratorium put in place at the beginning of this monetary crisis.*
The number of homeowners behind on their mortgage by at least 90 days is 1.8 million higher than before the pandemic began and the highest level since 2010. It is not a stretch to figure that mortgage delinquencies track closely with unemployment. The top five states with borrowers who have serious delinquencies are Mississippi, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Alaska.
Renters fare no better. In July, about 36% of renters, who are more likely to work in industries devastated by the coronavirus, were unable to pay for the roof over their head. This is in comparison to 30% of homeowners.
There are many reports out regarding these potential housing numbers, but overall they point to the fact that if things do not change, 29% to 43% of renter households could be at risk for eviction by the end of this year.
According to numbers from 2018, even before COVID struck, just under 48% of all renter households (20.8 million), were already what they call “rental-cost burdened.”
Renter households that live below the poverty line spend at least half of their income in rent and one in four pay over 70% of their income on rent.
In the San Francisco Bay Area the numbers of rent-cost burden runs at 48% but the disparity broken down by race, while not surprising, shows the inherent racism in our housing systems. In Oakland, almost two-thirds of Black renters — 64% — are rent burdened. Next are Latinos at 55%, Native Americans at 54% and Asians at 51%. White people have the lowest rent burden in Oakland and Bay Area, at 38% and 41%, respectively.
Eviction is not uncommon in the United States. According to The Eviction Lab at Princeton University between 2000 and 2016 Americans suffered an eviction rate of 3.6 million a year. Most for less than $600 in owed rent.
This places considerable pressure on landlords, especially “mom and pop” landlords who own 22.7 million out of the 48.5 million rental units on the market.
Often these landlords do not have access to a quick line of credit to help through a crisis should a tenant default. There are also huge costs associated with evicting a tenant. This places an undue onus on landlords while they try to keep up their mortgage payments, pay their property taxes, and maintain the property.
A bank foreclosure on a rental unit is a devastation to the individual owner, but the lack of maintenance, if occurring all across a particular community causes urban blight, reduces property values and reduces the safety and overall well-being of an entire neighborhood.
Communities are already suffering from lack of income due to diminished sales taxes, hotel taxes and other forms of income that came to a screeching halt with COVID. Add unpaid property taxes into the mix, and we are in an emergency we have never run up against before. These are the taxes that pay our teachers, our roads, our fire departments and all of the other public services we rely on.
We must also consider the human factor. Once evicted, increased homelessness tends to follow. This can often lead to diminishing mental and physical health. The ability to obtain employment also declines after an eviction. Eviction is not pleasant for anyone, but those finding themselves being evicted are often then mired in other poor health problems including depression, suicide and anxiety, all conditions that, if left untreated can result in drug and alcohol addiction.
Eviction of families is particularly damaging to children. This country can not agree on a program to safely educate our housed children under this pandemic. Consider how eviction and potential homelessness will impact the education and sense of well being of unhoused children.
Homelessness is not necessarily an instant outcome of an eviction. Some people will find themselves destitute enough to be living in a tent or their car, but others may not show up in our social conscience for a while. Many will exhaust all of their options, such as daily hotels, or relatives’ garages and couches first. American cities have become inured to homelessness, will we even notice the added humanity or will they remain as “unseen” as the present homeless population?
What can we do about all of this? Hundreds of organizations have proposed a multitude of ideas, but none are possible without federal funding.
The most comprehensive policy proposals include a nationwide moratorium on evictions and at least $100 billion in emergency rental assistance. This combined with added unemployment benefits, where needed, could help to prevent undue harm, not just to the evicted individuals and families, but to our social structure.
Many of the proposed solutions have been drawn up and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives - twice. Companion legislation sits idle in the Senate.
Spending money now could help mitigate the high cost of evictions to all involved. Evictions and foreclosures do not just effect tenants or homeowners, but entire communities. You may not feel you are impacted, but you are, your town is, your neighbors are, we as a nation will all suffer for an increase in humanity that is not housed.
*On August 25th San Francisco put a halt to evictions until December 1st.
My Horoscope for today: You believe that if you give an opponent enough rope then he’ll wind up hanging himself. Your patience pays off today when you see him hoisted by his own petard.
San Francisco weather: 65 degrees and Sunny
NYSE DOW opened at: 28077
NYSE DOW one year ago: 25826
Foreign word of the day: chapter
OED word of the day: totem — An emblem representing a clan or other hereditary social unit, having the form of an animal or other natural object; the animal or natural object itself; a depiction or representation of this animal or object
Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 167
Reading: It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
My Black and White Picture of the Day:
Something Silly From the Internet: