US averted one housing crisis, but another is in the wings.
As the US job market recovers and businesses and schools move toward normal operation, political leaders are debating how fast to pull back the emergency supports that helped companies and workers weather the pandemic. That includes the various eviction moratoriums that, despite ample loopholes and patchy enforcement, were instrumental in keeping tenants in their homes.
At the peak last year, the majority of states and several large cities including New York, Los Angeles and Seattle had some sort of heightened eviction protection in place, though the degree of protection varied widely. Many of those safeguards have expired over the past few months, and the federal eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September is set to lapse at the end of the month.
The United States averted the most dire predictions about what the pandemic would do to the housing market. An eviction wave never materialized. The share of people behind on mortgages, after falling steadily for months, recently hit its pre-pandemic level.
But a comprehensive report on housing conditions over the past year makes clear that while one crisis is passing, another is growing much worse.
Like the broader economy, the housing market is split on divergent tracks, according to the annual State of the Nation’s Housing Report released Wednesday by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. While one group of households is rushing to buy homes with savings built during the pandemic, another is being locked out of ownership as prices march upward and those who bore the brunt of pandemic job losses remain saddled with debt and in danger of losing their homes.
Landlords groups echoed tenant advocates’ frustration with the pace of federal housing aid, and in some cases say they would support a longer moratorium if it meant collecting more rent.
“Getting the funds to landlords has been incredibly slow, and that has impacted those tenants who are truly in need and those landlords who are not getting paid,” said Tom Bannon, president of the California Apartment Association, the state’s biggest trade group for landlords. “We could support a limited short extension, but there has to be a way to get the funds out faster.”