Housing Relief Skips Three Fifths of U.S. Households

A new report by Amherst finds that nearly 39 percent of U.S. households have received government assistance with the cost of their accommodations.

Chart courtesy of Amherst

Nearly 39 percent of U.S. households have received government housing relief, leaving tens of millions of renters at risk of eviction or foreclosure in the event of a prolonged downtown, according to a new report by data and analytics firm Amherst.

The national economic crisis has prompted targeted housing assistance measures such as eviction and foreclosure moratoriums and supplemental funding for Department of Housing and Urban Development programs. But the benefits of these policies have been asymmetric, with roughly 48 million households out of a total of nearly 125 million eligible for assistance towards their housing costs.

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That figure includes the nation’s 35.7 million households with government-backed mortgages and 12.3 million renters in households with government-backed mortgages. Amherst estimates that the policies leave the remaining two-thirds of households without adequate support during an economic crisis that has wiped out more than 30 million jobs since mid-March.

Low-income, hourly wage workers are bearing the brunt of these job losses, and they are more likely to be renters. Roughly a quarter of individuals with incomes below $30,000 are likely to have lost employment since the crisis began, the report estimates.

Roughly 28 million renter households are estimated to be at greatest risk of eviction, or 22.5 percent of all households whose homes are not owned or financed through government vehicles.

Renters most at risk

Renters are especially vulnerable to economic shocks because their median annual income is dramatically lower than that of homeowners with a mortgage and they spend a higher share of their income on housing costs than the latter group: more than one-third compared to one-quarter for homeowners. That gap is even more pronounced for lower-income renters.

Other federal measures to cushion the blow of widespread business closures and layoffs, including expanded unemployment insurance and one-time stimulus checks, have provided some breathing room for renters in the near term. But as the report notes, these are temporary measures full of gaps. For instance, many Americans are seeing delays in receiving unemployment from overwhelmed state systems, while some states do not cover workers who have had their hours reduced by less than 20 percent.

A previous report by Amherst released in March found that renters across the country may require $7 billion to $12 billion each month in temporary assistance over the following three to six months.

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