According to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 15% of renters nationally are behind on their rent payments. While this share is lower than at the peak of the pandemic, it still means that there are more than seven million renter households across the U.S.—including more than 150,000 renter households in Virginia—that are not current on their rent. Conservative estimates are that renters owe $8.4 billion in back rent.
Finding ways to help renters during the pandemic and economic downturn has been challenging. Last year, an eviction moratorium was put in place in an attempt to help renters; the Centers for Disease Control extended the eviction moratorium through June 2021. At the same time, the government has created the Virginia Rent Relief Program (RRP) which makes funds available to tenants and landlords, including back rent payments.
Ensuring equitable access to stable and affordable housing opportunities—during Fair Housing Month and every month—is important for helping to mitigate the economic and housing disparities that existed prior to COVID-19 and have been exacerbated during the pandemic.
Differential Impacts on Renters
The economy is improving, but many are still facing financial challenges. The economic recovery has been a “K-shaped” recovery, meaning that some people are doing well (the upper “arm” of the K) while others are still suffering (the lower “leg” of the K.) In general, African Americans and Hispanics have faced greater challenges than Whites during this recession.
Some examples of these economic disparities include the following:
- African American and Hispanic unemployment rates in Virginia are double the rate of Whites.
- Black small business owners saw their business activity decline much faster than other owners during the pandemic.
- African American and Hispanic individuals are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 than are White or Asian individuals.
Non-white renters are also much more likely than white renters to be behind on the rent. Nationally, about one in five African American, Hispanic/Latino(s), and Asian renter households is behind on rent. By comparison, less than one in 10 white renter households owes back rent.
Many renters face more months ahead of financial difficulties. According to the Census Bureau survey, about 10% of renter households have “no confidence” in their ability to pay next month’s rent. African American, Hispanic/Latino(a), and Asian renters are much more likely that white renters to say they will not be able to pay their rent next month.
Overall, about 15% of renter households say that it is “very likely” that they will have to leave their home due to eviction. According to this survey data, rates of eviction risk are not significantly different across racial and ethnic groups, with the exception of Asian renters.
For more information about renters in Virginia, check out Virginia REALTORS® recent research on renters and the rental housing market.