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Housing Crisis by the Numbers: Trends and Disparities in Housing Insecurity Before and During the Pandemic

WASHINGTON - Absent a massive increase in direct financial assistance to struggling renters and homeowners, the findings of a new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), released today, suggest that millions of strapped renters and homeowners will go deeper into debt, face more hardship and insecurity, and ultimately lose or be evicted from their homes.  

Nearly one-in-three renters experienced housing insecurity, on average, each week from late April 2020 through July 2020. Among homeowners, about one-in-six were housing insecure during this period. 

Hispanic and Black renters have seen particularly large increases in housing insecurity, with roughly 45 percent of renters in both groups reporting housing insecurity during the pandemic. Compared to 2019, that’s an increase of about 13 percentage points for Hispanic renters and 8 percentage points for Black renters. 

Roughly 44 to 45 percent of Hispanic and Black households with children were housing insecure each week between April and July 2020, and the racial and ethnic gaps in housing insecurity were wider than at any point from 2017 to 2019. 

“Housing insecurity existed before the pandemic, but it is quickly pushing it into a crisis” notes Yixia Cai, CEPR economist and co-author. “Prior to the pandemic, nearly 48 percent of households were overburdened by the cost of rent, including about 10.9 million households who spend over half of their income on housing.” 

This analysis shows the increase in housing insecurity today, particularly among renters, than before the pandemic. Hispanic renters have seen the largest upward surge in housing insecurity since last year, followed by Black renters. The pandemic has erased the mildly declining patterns of housing deprivation among households with children over the past three years, and widened the disparities across racial and ethnic groups since 2017.

“This makes it particularly important that pandemic relief legislation include a large increase in direct financial assistance to low- and middle-income renters and homeowners who have deferred or missed past housing payments,” explains co-author Shawn Fremstad. “Those are the households that will be unable to make housing payments in the months ahead.”

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The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

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