As pandemic relief ends for renters, a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report is cautioning that renters and their families will face higher risks.
The report, a follow-up to 2020’s Making Ends Meet survey, warns that “millions of renters and their families may suffer previously avoided economic harms of the COVID-19 pandemic as federal and state relief programs end.”
Some government relief efforts likely helped maintain the financial stability of renters and their families, suggesting that many may be at risk as those programs expire.
“Despite improvements relative to the early pandemic, financial conditions for many renters are still tenuous relative to those of owners. Renters’ finances are more sensitive to public-policy interventions than those of homeowners, and pandemic-related supports that may have helped renters are slowly going away,” the report said.
The report, which compared homeowners and renters, found that, on average, renters’ economic conditions were significantly more responsive to relief measures such as stimulus payments and changes in unemployment benefits. When these pandemic relief programs end, renters and their families may be at heightened risk.
Many renters still behind in rent payments
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16 percent of renters said that their household is not current on their rent payment as of June 2021.
And as of May 2021, renters owed an estimated $29.7 billion in back rent. Rental assistance from more recent relief bills has been slow to arrive.
How renters compare to homeowners
- Compared to homeowners, renters are more likely to be Black or Hispanic, are younger, and have lower incomes. Prior to the pandemic, average credit scores among renters were 86 points lower than those of homeowners with a mortgage, and 106 points lower than those homeowners who reported paying no mortgage. Renters’ Financial Well-Being Scores were nearly eight points lower than those of homeowners with a mortgage, and more than 13 points lower than homeowners who reported paying no mortgage.
- Renters’ debt obligations also differed considerably from those of homeowners before the pandemic. In June 2019, renters were more likely than homeowners to have student debt and to have used some form of alternative financial service, such as payday, pawn shop, or auto-title loans.
- During the pandemic, despite poor labor-market conditions, renters’ financial conditions on average appeared to improve as much as or more than those of homeowners. Renters’ credit scores grew by 16 points during the pandemic, compared to 10 points for mortgagors and seven points for other homeowners, for example. However, renters’ credit scores, though improved, remained substantially below those of homeowners, even accounting for the modest improvements of renters’ credit scores.
- Renters’ financial conditions throughout the pandemic have been more responsive to changes in government financial assistance than those of homeowners. Delinquency, credit-card use, and credit-card debt among renters rose and fell in conjunction with stimulus payments and changes in federal unemployment benefits, while homeowners’ delinquency, credit-card use, and credit-card debt remained comparatively stable.
- Among renters, some credit outcomes among groups who qualified for targeted pandemic relief appeared to be more responsive to policy changes than those among other groups. For example, credit scores among renters with student debt rose 40 points during the first months of the pandemic. Additionally, delinquency rates among renters with children saw a considerable decline following stimulus payments during the pandemic (dropping from 42.1 percent to 34.4 percent), perhaps reflecting that stimulus payments could be larger depending on the presence of children in the family.
Without the pandemic-relief efforts of the government, “many renters may have experienced more financial difficulty than they did during the pandemic. As pandemic-related recovery continues and these programs phase out, our results suggest that renters’ finances may begin to deteriorate, as they did after the cessation of previous pandemic policy interventions.
“They also suggest that, while the financial status of renters may be sensitive to the recent or upcoming termination of various supports, they may also respond favorably to the availability of new assistance from Child Tax Credits and rental assistance,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report said.