Dec. 31 doesn’t just mark the end of 2020; it marks the final day that renters will be protected by the federal ban on evictions put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amid the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy and leaving millions of people unemployed and unable to pay their bills. And like all things related to the pandemic (and America in general for that matter), Black and Latino communities are likely to be hit the hardest.
According to Politico, “Black and Latino people are twice as likely to rent as white people,” and housing experts believe that when landlords are able to legally evict tenants for nonpayment again, the nation will see the most racially “lopsided economic event imaginable.”
“The majority of the up to 17 million households at risk of losing their homes this winter are comprised of people of color,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said. “While the current crises have heightened the threat of eviction for Black and Latino renters, it is not new. Structural racism leaves people of color disproportionately low-income, rent-burdened, or homeless. These inequities compound the harm done by Covid-19.”
James Parrott, an economist with the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School, told Politico that the pandemic has caused “the most lopsided economic event imaginable,” and that, because Black and Latino workers are overrepresented in the service industries—which have been drained economically due to nationwide shutdowns—the wave of evictions that are sure to start on Jan. 1 will certainly affect minority communities the most.
“Low-wage workers who work those hourly paid jobs in the face-to-face service industries are most affected by this,” Parrott said. “The problems with mounting levels of unpaid rent are going to be most severe in those same neighborhoods.”
Just 29 percent of Black renters and 31 percent of Latino renters reported having “high confidence” they would be able to make their rent this month, according to the most recent Census survey, compared with half of white renters. Forty percent of Black renters and 35 percent of Latino renters expressed no or slight confidence in their ability to make rent, compared with 21 percent of white renters.
If the fact that millions of renters are facing the possibility of ending up homeless in and of itself isn’t enough, a major concern is that people being put out of their homes will cause COVID-19 infection and mortality rates—which have been “increasing across the country,” according to the CDC—to spike even further than they are currently.
A recent study published by the Social Sciences Research Network found that “evictions may accelerate COVID-19 transmission” based on the infection rates in 27 states that lifted their eviction bans between March and September.
“COVID-19 incidence in states that lifted their moratoriums was 1.6 (95% CI 1.0,2.3) times the incidence of states that maintained their moratoriums at 10 weeks post-lifting and grew to a ratio of 2.1 (CI 1.1,3.9) at ≥16 weeks,” the study states. “Mortality in states that lifted their moratoriums was 1.6 (CI 1.2,2.3) times the mortality of states that maintained their moratoriums at 7 weeks post-lifting and grew to a ratio of 5.4 (CI 3.1,9.3) at ≥16 weeks. These results translate to an estimated 433,700 excess cases (CI 365200,502200) and 10,700 excess deaths (CI 8900,12500) nationally.”
As we know, COVID-19 infection has also been shown to affect Black and Latino communities disproportionately. So yeah, the pandemic has been bad for everyone, but the economic gap being what it is in America, communities of color are likely to be burdened the most.