By Vidhya Pathy, Associate Editor
Lately, headlines have been filled with rising death counts and jarring statistics of unemployment rates due to COVID-19. However, there is another crisis looming, one that has largely been overlooked by the mainstream media. An estimated 20 to 28 million renters in the United States are on the verge of eviction. With the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) — a federal eviction moratorium — set to expire on Friday, July 24, homeless shelters are likely to be flooded with people. Shelters across the United States are already strained in terms of funding and space; there is great uncertainty surrounding the future of the predominantly Hispanic and black homeless population, which will be without housing and at even higher risk to contract COVID-19.
Similar to many other facets of public policy, the pandemic has exposed the ugly truth of a lack of regulation in the American housing market and exacerbated an issue that will impact a large portion of the U.S. population. In 2016, according to the Princeton University Eviction Lab, an eviction was filed every minute. That year, national unemployment was at 4.7%. To put that into perspective, as of June 2020, national unemployment was as high as 11.1%. Prior to this pandemic and the unemployment crisis it has caused, one in four renters was spending over half of their income on housing. The cost of rent has been on the rise since 2001, and now, in a crisis, the consequences for underprivileged people are becoming even clearer.
The effects of eviction are not only detrimental to families and individuals in the present, but also in the future, especially in regards to the cycle of poverty. Though statistically, most evictions of families have not led to homelessness in the past, their process has been proven to take a toll on the level of education for the children involved. Court cases and moving costs consume family income, forcing families to move into lower-quality housing that is farther away from higher-paying jobs, public transit, and other amenities. This reinforces job insecurity for working family members. All these factors contribute to children falling behind in school or dropping out all together, further undermining their ability to earn money and provide for their families down the line.
The only silver lining in this impending wave of evictions is that it can be prevented with support from federal and state governments. However, this support needs to be much more widespread than detailed in current policies. There are a host of different pieces of legislation that have already been passed to support Americans through this difficult time. The CARES Act was a $2.2 trillion stimulus package for the economy that stipulated a temporary eviction moratorium. Different states have also passed policies injecting money into their local economies and supporting individuals. For instance, the state of Connecticut has implemented its own eviction moratorium that will stay in effect until August 25th. While these policies are important in the short term, they are band-aid solutions to systemic, long-standing problems. Until the government invests more money into subsidized housing and social services outside of urban centers in addition to regulating landlords and their ability to raise rent indiscriminately, there will be another eviction crisis—far worse than the one that is about to come.