The U.S. is teetering on the brink of the most severe housing crisis in decades.
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That's according to a report released Friday by the Aspen Institute, which estimates that between 30 million to 40 million Americans are at risk of eviction over the next several months – a result of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic recession.
"Renters experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 have exhausted their resources and limited funds just as eviction moratoriums and emergency relief across the United States expire," the report, which is aggregated from existing research, said. "Without intervention, the housing crisis will result in significant harm to renters and property owners."
When the novel coronavirus began rapidly spreading across the U.S. in mid-March, prompting an unprecedented shutdown of the nation's economy, lawmakers took swift action to protect renters and homeowners from financial fallout.
Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which included an eviction freeze that protected about 12 million renters in federally backed properties. But that moratorium expired at the end of July, leaving the fate of some renters up in the air.
For tenants living in privately backed properties, the eviction bans vary by state. You can check the status here.
"The vast majority of states lack protective eviction moratoriums and housing stabilization measures that could support renters facing rent hardship," the report said.
Making matters worse for renters is that many entered the virus-induced crisis on already shaky ground. According to research from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, about half of all American renters were cost-burdened before the crisis, meaning that more than one-third of their income went toward rent.
There are some 110 million Americans living in rental households; up to 23 million renters – or 20% – are at risk of eviction by Sept. 30, according to an analysis by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.
On Saturday, seeking to bypass Congress as negotiators remained deadlocked over another round of virus aid, President Trump signed four executive orders, including one measure that called for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield to “consider” whether an eviction ban is needed.
It also directs Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to identify federal funds that could provide temporary financial aid to renters and homeowners who are struggling to make their payments.
Although White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said during an interview with CNN that the executive order would stop evictions – "all the federally financed, single families and multifamilies will be covered as they have been," he said – critics questioned whether it went far enough.
"While it has the illusion of saying, ‘We’re going to have a moratorium on evictions,’ it says ‘I’m gonna ask the folks in charge to study if that’s feasible,'" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
Even as the U.S. economy has started to gradually recover – over the last three months, it's added a little more than 9 million jobs – data indicates that renters are still struggling to make their monthly payments.
About 34% of renters, or roughly 23.7 million Americans, have little to no confidence that they'll be able to pay their August rent, according to a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
A separate study by Apartment List, an online rental platform, found that at least 32% of households still owed money at the beginning of August for rent or mortgage payments from previous months. More than 20% owe more than $1,000.
"Missed housing payments are continuing to pile up," the study said. "For the fourth straight month, we found that roughly one in three Americans failed to make their full rent or mortgage payment in the first week of the month."