November 19, 2020

Five Key Findings From JCHS’ Housing Report

Today, the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) released its latest State of the Nation's Housing report, describing key trends in both national and metro-level homeownership and rental markets. The report notes that the Covid-19 pandemic’s economic fallout has worsened our housing affordability challenges and argues that these worsening conditions necessitate a “comprehensive re-envisioning of national housing policy.” This blog post highlights five key findings from JCHS’ 2020 State of the Nation's Housing report and briefly discusses JCHS’ vision for a new national housing agenda: 

Vulnerable households have been hit hardest by Covid-19’s economic fallout

During the pandemic’s early months, the U.S. unemployment rate spiked from 3.5 percent in February to 14.7 percent in April, with over 20 million jobs lost in that month alone. JCHS notes that households hardest hit by the pandemic’s economic fallout were also the groups who entered the pandemic already facing housing cost burdens, such as renters, lower-income households and households of color. For example, between March and September 2020, 54 and 47 percent of Hispanic and Black households reported income losses, respectively, compared to 37 percent for white households. Additionally, among all income groups, Hispanic households are consistently the most likely to have lost income this year. Enterprise’s analysis of the Census Bureau Pulse Survey finds that renters, more specifically Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black renters and renter households with children, reported facing greater difficulties staying current on their monthly housing payments in the pandemic’s early months. 

Renter households continue to face significant housing cost burdens

In 2019, 20.4 million American renter households, or 46.3 percent of all renter households, were cost burdened—that is, they paid more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing. JCHS notes that renter households of color are particularly likely to have cost burdens. For example, nearly 54 and 52 percent of Black and Hispanic renters were cost burdened in 2019, respectively, compared to nearly 42 percent for white renters. Additionally, across most income groups, households of color are more likely to be cost burdened than their counterpart white households. JCHS’ report also points out that nearly 24 percent of the 20.4 million cost burdened renter households were also severely cost burdened, paying more than half of their income for housing. An analysis from Enterprise suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated renters’ housing challenges. 

The number of Americans experiencing homelessness is on the rise

 JCHS highlights that HUD’s latest point-in-time estimates show that the estimated number of individuals experiencing homelessness on any given night increased by 15,000 people in 2019, bringing the total number to nearly 568,000 people. Additionally, the estimated number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness rose 9 percent to 211,000 people. JCHS’ report also points out that people of color are still disproportionately more likely to experience homelessness. In 2019, Black and Hispanic Americans accounted for nearly 13 and 18 percent of the US population, respectively, but represented 40 and 22 percent of Americans experiencing homelessness, compared to 48 percent for white Americans who comprise nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population. This increase in homelessness is alarming because individuals and families experiencing homelessness are at higher risk of Covid-19 exposure, and the pandemic’s economic fallout will likely increase lower-income households’ vulnerability to housing instability and homelessness.   

Wide racial disparities in homeownership continue to exist in the U.S.

The racial homeownership gap between Black and white households was at 30.6 percentage points in 2019, the largest disparity since 1983. Between 2018 and 2019, the homeownership rate for white households rose slightly to 73.3 percent, while the homeownership rate for Black households remained essentially flat at 42.8 percent. Additionally, while Hispanic and Asian households made more gains in homeownership than their Black counterparts, their homeownership rates still lag the white homeownership rate by 27 and 16 percentage points, respectively. Enterprise’s Policy Development & Research team (PD&R) analyzes the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS) to release our quarterly housing tenure update, which has highlighted persisting tenure gaps between households of color and white households.

Affordability challenges exacerbated by the pandemic require a new national housing agenda 

The report argues that today’s housing affordability challenges, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic’s economic fallout, calls for a “comprehensive re-envisioning of national housing policy.” JCHS argues that an effective national housing policy would lay out the appropriate roles and responsibilities in meeting our housing needs for all levels of government; create incentives for efficient private production of housing through regulatory and tax structures; remedy both the legacy and continuing presence of racial discrimination in housing markets; improve the resilience of the housing stock in the face of climate change; and ensure the availability and affordability of mortgage financing as well as the stability of the housing finance system. 

Enterprise echoes JCHS in calling for the creation and implementation of a national housing agenda that would facilitate an equitable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and advance racial equity, resilience and upward mobility through housing and community development policies. Enterprise’s CEO Priscilla Almodovar notes that we are looking forward to “working with President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, incoming members of his administration and the 117th Congress to make his pledge of investing $640 billion over 10 years in quality, affordable homes a reality.” Furthermore, Enterprise will continue to advocate for including supplemental appropriations for affordable housing and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit relief in any federal Covid-19 relief package, to support impacted tenants and affordable housing providers and affordable housing production amid the pandemic.  

Check out Enterprise’s Resilient Futures resource page for more information on housing and policy responses to the pandemic, and subscribe to our daily and bi-weekly policy newsletters for more information on Enterprise’s federal, state, and local policy work.

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