Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. households were burdened by the cost of rental and mortgage payments, burdens which disproportionately fell on Black and Hispanic families. Using a 5-wave survey, we examined whether disparities in housing cost burden continued throughout the pandemic and trends in how households fell behind on rent and mortgage payments. We found that more than a third of households experienced housing cost burdens during the pandemic, with a slightly higher percentage of households of color bearing cost burdens than white households. Renters had greater cost burdens than homeowners.
During the pandemic, significantly more Black and Hispanic households fell behind on monthly housing payments than households that were white or of another race or ethnicity. Despite significant differences in cost burdens between owners and renters, there were none in falling behind on rent and mortgage payments. In the first year of the pandemic, increasingly more households fell behind on their payments, but the proportion did not consistently increase at each wave of our survey. The sharpest increases occurred between March and June of 2021.
Among the households in our sample, most that owed back rent were only behind by one month. Although about a quarter of renters received special arrangements from their landlords to accommodate an inability to pay their rent, many households were still behind. A greater proportion of Black and Hispanic households had these special arrangements, but a greater proportion of those same households were still behind on their rent, showing the need for additional policies to address disparities. Taken as a whole, the findings in this brief highlight the need for emergency housing funds and the urgency with which these funds must reach households in need.
Fox-Dichter, Sophia; Chun, Yung; Roll, Stephen; Kristensen, Katie; and Michal Grinstein-Weiss, “Housing Hardships During COVID-19,” (2021). Social Policy Institute Research.