U.S. Rent Debt Estimated at More Than $21 Billion

The National Equity Atlas has been tracking national rent debt, which takes on new meaning since the federal eviction moratorium expired at the end of July.

2 minute read

August 17, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Rent Jubilee

David Odisho / Shutterstock

Throughout the pandemic, a series of clashing data points has hung over the country like a dark cloud ready to burst. Millions of renters and property owners struggled to pay bills, falling behind on payments and racking up debt and arrears. Eviction moratoria in place at various levels of government around the country proved only sporadically effective (and frequently illegal). At the same time, poverty dropped by record levels and low-wage jobs all over the country are reportedly understaffed, presumably at least in part because people have better options. Yet, homelessness has also spiked at "devastating" rates, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in July.

An article by Jillian Berman keeps the focus on the rent debt that has new consequences since the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium, estimating that 6.4 million households owe an estimated $21.3 billion in rent debt. The data comes from analysis of June 23 – July 5, 2021 Census Household Pulse Survey by the National Equity Atlas. '

The National Equity Atlas has created a dashboard of interactive maps and infographics to track mounting rent debt and the potential of mass evictions as "one of the most pressing equity issues created by the pandemic." The National Equity Atlas calls on policymakers to eliminate rent debt and prevent evictions.

As noted by Berman, rent debt pre-dates the pandemic, but Covid-19 likely exacerbated the problem. Although previous economic relief packages approved by the federal government have devoted $46 billion worth of rent relief funds to the growing challenge, relief funds are reaching struggling renters too slowly to effectively mitigate the risk in the rental housing market.

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