There’s a Rental Crisis Coming

The country’s 44 million rental households are uniquely vulnerable amid the current public health and economic crises, and renters often lack financial security and legal protections, not to mention bargaining power vis-a-vis their landlords.

Faced with the specter of massive housing loss, policymakers have taken some steps to keep tenants in their homes, not only to help the renters but also as a critical public health measure. 

These remedies focus on the short term, because of the scale of this downturn, many if not most unemployed renters will not have new jobs by the end of July. The federal government needs a long-term plan to prevent millions of unemployed renters from losing their homes when eviction moratoriums and unemployment sweeteners run out.

Public health experts are predicting that the Covid-19 crisis will last well beyond the summer, and some government officials are bracing for waves of shutdowns that could continue for 12 to 18 months. 

While landlords should be encouraged to reduce payments or implement repayment plans, canceling rent isn’t a viable option for many of them. Protecting tens of millions of renters amid a deep recession won’t be easy. But Congress needs to recognize the importance of keeping rent checks flowing.  

The bottom line is that Congress needs to find a way to inject funding into the rental ecosystem — whether through unemployment insurance, rental assistance, or direct payment to landlords.

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