Biden Admin Housing Peoples Dispatch

3.8 Million Tenants in the US Could be Evicted in the Next Two Months

Only 3.6 million eviction cases were filed in the entire year of 2018. The looming eviction crisis reflects the catastrophic failure of the US government
Millions of people are behind on rent and facing eviction in part because of the soaring rent prices. (Photo: Vincent Tsai)

By Peoples Dispatch

According to the United States Census Bureau, 3.8 million tenants are likely to be evicted in the next two months. Comparatively, only 3.6 million eviction cases were filed in the entire year of 2018. In 2018, the Eviction Lab at Princeton University estimated that there were only 898,479 evictions in 2016, although this number may be a low estimate compared to more recent reports.

High rent, low pay

The 3.8 million facing eviction is the tip of the iceberg. The Census Bureau also estimated that 8.5 million tenants are behind on their rent as the month of August comes to a close. 

Millions of people are behind on rent and facing eviction in part because of the soaring rent prices. In June of this year, median rents in the US topped a staggering $2,000 per month—the highest ever recorded.

Renters across the country have seen rent increase by almost 25% since before the pandemic, with an increase of 15% in just the past 12 months, according to real estate marketplace company Zillow. Nearly half of renters have been hit with rent hikes.

Rents have increased dramatically due to high inflation, which the people of the US cite as their top concern by a wide margin. High rents are also due to the highly predictable and avoidable, affordable housing shortage, and wage crisis. 

Caution is necessary when analyzing the so-called “shortage”. Data is often presented as if there are not enough homes for people in the US, which is not true. According to the 2020 Census, nearly one in ten homes are vacant

There is, however, a shortage of homes that are currently both usable and set at a price that working and poor people can afford. In January 2019, over three years ago, the country already had a shortage of seven million affordable housing units for low-income renters, leaving only 37 affordable rental homes for every 100 low-income tenant households. 

This shows that even with years of advance notice of an ongoing affordability crisis that has now ballooned into massive proportions, the US government did not take the necessary steps to provide enough affordable housing for people. The lack of available housing has caused demand to skyrocket, therefore increasing rents.

The current wage crisis was also avoidable. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the wage a worker must earn to afford a “modest” one-bedroom home in 2022 is $21.25 per hour. This means that the average minimum wage worker must work 79 hours a week to be able to live in a simple one-bedroom unit. In the most expensive (and most populous) states, the statistic is worse at 99 hours per week in New York and 83 hours in California.

President Biden campaigned on the promise of setting the federal minimum wage at $15, which some argue is long overdue and even inadequate. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, and has been since 2009 when it was last increased. 

Biden had the opportunity, once he was elected, to act on this promise. He chose not to. As early into his administration as February, when the Senate Parliamentarian (an unelected position) ruled that raising the minimum wage to $15 could not be included in Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” bill, Biden gave up the fight. “It just doesn’t look like we can do it,” Biden said, despite the fact that his own Vice President Kamala Harris could have easily overruled the Parliamentarian. 

Failure of social services

After waves of housing protests, including rent strikes, during the height of the pandemic, many states as well as the federal government implemented an eviction moratorium. The moratoriums fell short of the growing demand to cancel rents during the pandemic, a movement which correctly predicted that mass evictions would occur once tenants were required to pay their growing rent debts post-moratorium. Yet, the moratoriums were a victory of the massive housing movement at the height of the pandemic.

Nowhere in the United States was the call to cancel rents heeded. And now that all statewide eviction moratoriums have ended, including the federal moratorium which was struck down by the Supreme Court on August 26, 2021, tenants who had accrued rent debt are now being put through the eviction machine. A year after the federal moratorium, evictions are once again at pre-pandemic levels, although the financial security of the nation’s tenants is not.

And while most of the pandemic-related federal assistance money for rent relief has been distributed to states, some states are lagging behind in the distribution. In an especially cruel move, the conservative governors of Arkansas and Nebraska outright refused funds for renter relief. 

Housing is a multi-billion dollar industry in the US. While millions of tenants now face eviction, the handful of billionaire landlords have amassed $24.4 billion in profit during the pandemic according to a 2021 report. 3.8 million tenants could lose access to a basic part of human life while their landlords make billions more than they will ever need.

Peoples Dispatch

Peoples Dispatch, formerly The Dawn News, is an international media project with the mission of bringing voices from people’s movements and organizations across the globe. Since its establishment three years ago, it has sought to ensure that the coverage of news from around the world is not restricted to the rhetoric of politicians and the fortunes of big companies but encompasses the richness and diversity of mobilizations from around the world.

11 comments

  1. While this problem has been percolating for many years, it will be the Biden administration that will either deal with it, or choose not to. If they choose not to of course they could be faced in the years 2023 and 2024 with small towns of people living in appliance boxes under every highway overpass in America. The problem is that they won’t be calling them Trumptowns. Oh, no. They will being referred to as Bidenvilles. And like the Hoovervilles of the 20th century, they will spell doom for the president and political party that let them happen.

    1. I’m expecting the continual neglect. This doesn’t even count the unhoused living in tents who are also being evicted.

    2. Landlords invest lots of money in housing only to get very little return. Renters have far too many rights. Why should any one put tons of money for rentals? It is not worth the trouble and hassles. It is one problem after another. It is not the job or responsibility of landlords to fix society problems of low income or homelessness. The ones who need protection and care are owners who worked hard to have housing not renters who benefit from others hard work. It is Socialism when renters get the advantages over owners. The only reason there’s rent controls is that renters out vote the small number of land lords.

  2. Thank you for pointing this out. I would add one correction, however. No housing is affordable to today’s poor, those with very little or $0 incomes. The last I looked, government listed the number of jobless at around 10 million, but we have no way of counting the total number, including the long-term/permanently jobless. We used to rely on UI and welfare statistics to get an estimate of these figures. Democrats ended actual welfare aid 26 years ago, so we no longer have those statistics.

  3. I don’t understand why rents are growing so fast. The builders have been building thousands and thousands of new homes and apartments, and many thousands of them are vacant, especially in Arizona. You’d think with so many built, it would exert a downward pressure on rents!!!

    1. Why rents are skyrocketing ?

      Biggest landlord in US is Wall Street a group led by Black Rock largest hedge fund in the world comparable to number one global fund, Vanguard.

      They control rental as well as multi family and single family housing market. They also control mortgage industry. They are responsible for ridiculous housing prices and rents that exceed purchase power and affordability of 90% of population.

      This is pure monopolization of market. In fact Black Rock doesn’t even care about making money of sales or rents as millions of housing Wall Street owns is empty as they are unaffordable but that does not matter as Wall Street uses them as a collateral to borrow huge amounts of money via process of re-hypothecation meaning using the same house as collateral of multiple loans which results in leveraging of home price minimum about ten times but if done in London even thousand times. Remember value of house is determined not by appraisal but by market value that Wall Street control via monopolistic practices.

      That is how they borrow money to hedge, speculate or invest in Private equity funds for real profit.

      It is criminal using housing to make money on Wall Street not to rent or sell to those who need It and can afford it.

      The so called affordable housing, section 8 or. 42 is another scheme to funnel government money to Wall Street by giving them huge tax breaks while allowing them to raise commercial market rents with no restrictions.

      In turn massive public housing project meaning building entire communities of single and multiple housing (not big building blocks ghettos ) by government and renting, financing and selling them for prices that undercut greed based Wall Street monopolistic housing market would have huge positive impact on local communities making housing cost related to local level of incomes.

      But state and Washington sellout politicians won’t have it as they want people homeless, dead or suffering.

  4. in a nation where money and success=love it is expected that millions not loved are junkies psychopaths criminals moron journalists hucksters rapists fake academics homeless

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