Canceling Rent Can Prevent Increases In Homelessness

It goes without saying that the world we live in has changed dramatically in the last six months. The year 2020 has brought a global pandemic that has caused widespread illness and unprecedented rates of unemployment across the world. While much of the unemployment was initially intended to be temporary, the lingering pandemic has caused many businesses to close permanently, and has resulted in millions of individuals out of work and without a steady income. 

The United States in particular estimates that their unemployment rate is at 11.1% as of July 2nd, 2020. This equates to a staggering 12 million people who have lost their jobs since February. To help alleviate the financial burdens of the unemployed, Congress passed the CARES Act which provided $600 weekly payments to individuals who had lost their job due to the pandemic. However, these payments expired on July 31st, and there is no current plan in place to extend them. 

With so many people out of work, it should not be surprising that many individuals and families can’t pay rent, even with the weekly payments from the CARES Act. In fact, in July, approximately one third of renters failed to pay their rent in full and/or on time. This marks the fourth consecutive month that a historically high number of households were unable to pay their rent on time and in full (up from 30% in June and 31% in May). Studies have also shown that renters who are low­-income and younger were most likely to miss their payments. 

Fortunately, the CARES Act also provided a temporary moratorium on evictions lasting through July 24th. However, millions of families still accrued back rent during this time. When this comes due, there will be mass evictions, resulting in mass homelessness. 

But why isn’t $600 per week enough to cover rent for so many individuals and families across the country? 

Just a few months ago, the US economy was arguably as good as it had been since the 1990s. However, important to note, the metric of economic health is based on stock market performance which does not account for the vast majority of Americans’ economic well being. That said, the unemployment rate was at a historic low, the economy was growing, and wages were rising in various sectors. But even so, tens of millions of low-­income, middle-­income, and even high-­income families were dealing with an affordability crisis. Cities across the nation were experiencing severe housing shortages which were caused by decades of under building and overly restrictive zoning policies. This led to soaring home prices and increased rent prices. 

It is important to note that in the midst of this rent crisis, there are many individuals, communities and organizations advocating for rent cancellation across the country. Movements to cancel the rent of millions of Americans are widespread and predominantly led by people of color. 

Here at JOIN, we support efforts to cancel the rent ensuring people stay stably housed, especially while in the midst of a global pandemic. We will continue to support policies that offer rent relief, affordable housing, and funding to transition people out of homelessness and into permanent housing. Consider making a donation to support our work today.