It’s mid-July now, but a survey by rental website Apartment List found that 32% of renters and homeowners haven’t yet paid their rent or mortgage in full this month. This finding points to just how seriously Americans are being impacted financially by the coronavirus pandemic. Though the official unemployment rate for June showed some signs of recovery, the reality was much more complicated for people of color — especially since the unemployment number failed to account for the explosion in new coronavirus cases hitting several of the most populous states in late June.
Apartment List has been tracking missed payments since April, when 24% of those surveyed had not made full, on-time housing payments. In May, it was 31%; in June, 30%, and it rose again to 32% in July. At the time of the survey, 19% of people hadn’t made any payments for July while 13% had made a partial payment. The survey found that the majority had paid their June rent in full by the first week of July — but making on-time payments in full remains a challenge. More renters than homeowners struggled to make on-time payments, and over 40% of the 18 to 29 age group did not make full on-time housing payments in July. And understandably, a higher percentage of lower-income households missed payments.
Still, even if most renters and homeowners managed to make up missed payments by the start of the next month, it still means that they’re potentially racking up late fees or impacting their credit score. In mid-April, the Wall Street Journal reported that there was a rise in renters putting rent on their credit cards. The survey shows that housing payments remain a heavy burden on Americans during this pandemic and indicate that the various eviction moratoriums haven’t done enough to help, especially since any missed rent and late fees are due once a moratorium expires. Though the federal eviction moratorium expires after July 25th, it only applied to federally-subsidized properties. Many state or local eviction moratoriums have already expired or will expire by the end of this summer.
Last week, the Washington Post reported on the increasing likelihood that we’ll see a wave of evictions this summer, with 20% of renters at risk of being evicted by the end of September. In the case of one woman whose eviction case was heard by a Texas judge, she owed over $4,000 to her landlord, including over $1,000 in late fees. Without rent forgiveness and rent cancellations, many people will be expected to suddenly hand over an unmanageable amount of money while the conditions of the pandemic are worsening in many states and relief measures like the extra $600 in unemployment benefits run out. The risk is much higher for renters who are Black and Latinx people of color; 44% and 41%, respectively, answered that they had no or only slight confidence in paying rent next month, while 21% of white renters said the same.
Without an extension of the $600 many people have been receiving in unemployment benefits, experts are concerned about a huge increase in homelessness. Congress is currently in recess, and does not come back into session until July 20th. The last $600 unemployment payment will likely be paid on July 25th or 26th. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has stated that if extra unemployment benefits are extended, it may be smaller than the $600 a week people had been receiving.