NEW YORK--More than $21.5 billion in past-due rent is looming over Americans struggling to make ends meet, global advisory firm Stout, Risius and Ross estimated on Wednesday, as Republicans and Democrats fight over a new COVID-19 relief package.
Senate Republicans this week proposed a new plan that would not reinstate the recently-lapsed federal eviction ban, which carried a stay for rent due for one-third of renters. Adding to the strain, enhanced $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits are set to evaporate this Friday.
Without a solution soon, the likely result "will be a staggering surge in homelessness unlike anything we have seen," said John Pollock, a Public Justice Center attorney and coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC), which helped develop the eviction tracking tool with Stout, Risius and Ross.
The unprecedented amount of back rent is not a macro-economic game changer, said Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi. But for renters, "it's catastrophic. Very few people will be able to pay this back," he said.
A debt spiral could haunt displaced tenants "for a lifetime," he added.
Over the spring and early summer, as unemployment surged to levels unseen since the aftermath of the 1930s Great Depression, a patchwork of federal, state and local eviction bans kept renters in their homes. On Friday, the eviction ban that covered the third of renters in buildings with mortgages backed by the federal government lapsed. The rent deferred over four months is now due, as is all the rent where local and state moratoria on evictions have also ended.