3.7M renters may lose their homes due to eviction: Census Bureau

A quarter of renters surveyed uncertain of ability to make rent, but industry rent data shows market-rate payments strengthened


Millions of renters believe they will be evicted from their homes in the next two months due to eviction, according to the results of a new survey.

The U.S. Census Bureau found that of 58 million households it surveyed, 14.7 million — or a quarter of the total — had no or only slight confidence in their ability to pay rent next month, according to a Household Pulse Survey conducted for the week ending Oct. 7. The same survey found that in half a million households, rental payments are currently on hold, or will be soon.

Nearly half of 8.3 million renter households surveyed by the Census said they were “very” or “somewhat” likely to leave their home in the next two months due to eviction.

Efforts to prevent mass displacement during a health crisis at the state and federal level have mostly focused on preventing evictions for non-payment, or allowing landlords to defer mortgage payments for a period. As bills stack up while talks for a new stimulus sputter, it is unclear who will pay when eviction protections and forbearance agreements expire.

“No one is going to pay nine months’ back rent when this is all over,” said Robert Gilman, who co-chairs the real estate group at public accounting firm Anchin.

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Gilman said he’s concerned about what will happen when forbearance agreements expire and property taxes come due in January in New York. “I’m not saying it’s wrong,” Gilman said, of the limits on evictions. “The majority of people really do need help — but you have to look at both sides of the ledger.”

In New York, limits on some evictions were extended through the end of the year, and they now apply to evictions that were filed before the pandemic. A CDC eviction ban for nonpayment of rent is also in place through the end of the year. But even with those stopgap measures, uncertainty among renters across the nation about their ability to continue to make rent payments remains high.

An industry survey of market-rate apartment payments paints a rosier picture than the Census surveys show.

According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade group representing large rental landlords, rent collections improved slightly from September to October. In the nearly 12 million apartments it tracks, which does not include subsidized apartments, 79.4 percent of households made a full or partial rent payment by Oct. 6, compared to 76.4 percent that had paid by the same time in September.

“Despite ongoing efforts by apartment community owners and operators to help residents facing financial distress through creative and nuanced payment plans, rent relief and other approaches, renters and the broader multifamily industry are confronting growing challenges,” said Doug Bibby, president of NMHC.

The mixed results support the idea of a K-shaped recovery, where those who are more affluent make a rapid recovery, while lower-income earners lag behind. At a presentation by the St. Louis Federal Reserve in September, economist Bill Emmons noted that the current crisis has had more of a disproportionate impact on low-income households than past crises have.