Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the nation’s renters and small landlords – particularly in BIPOC communities.
In response, local governments, philanthropy, housing providers and advocates have developed innovative responses to address the needs of renter households and housing providers to prevent evictions and preserve affordable homes.
In a four-part eviction-prevention webinar series, Enterprise and our partners focus on the short and long-term impacts on families’ housing and economic stability, and on the housing stock and economic viability of the “mom-and-pop” owners who make up most of this nation’s property owners.
We also highlight best practices that have emerged from this crisis and discuss what innovations could be made permanent and replicated to make for a more equitable housing system over the long term.
Our first panel examined the connection between ensuring residents can remain in their homes and the preservation of our affordable housing stock.
Panelists explored the importance of small rental properties in the country’s affordable housing ecosystem, the impact the pandemic has had on renters living in small rental properties and the ramifications for its viability.
They emphasized that risks to this housing stock threaten to disproportionately harm BIPOC owners and renters.
- Ruby Bolaria Shifrin, Director of Housing Affordability, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
- Ryan Coon, Co-founder and CEO, Avail
- Andrew Jakabovics, Vice President of Policy Development, Enterprise Community Partners
- Sue Speakman-Gomez, President, HousingLink
Four key takeaways
1. Small and medium-sized properties are a critical source of affordable homes.
Small rental properties with 2-49 apartments comprise 49% of America’s rental homes, making it the largest share of the ecosystem, which also includes single-family homes and large rental properties with 50 homes or more.
This housing stock is critical to ensuring Americans have access to stable, affordable homes, and it serves a large percentage of the nation’s BIPOC renter households.
Rents for these homes trend lower than average market rents, making this the largest inventory of affordable rental homes in the country, though most are not income-restricted. These small properties are also much more likely to be owned by individuals, couples or owners who have just a few properties.
More than 80% of properties with four or fewer, and 45% of properties with 5-24 apartments, are owned by individual investors.
2. Lost rent threatens the viability and continued affordability of small- and medium-sized properties.
Lost rent has led landlords to defer maintenance (28% of 80,000 Avail landlords) and, according to Urban Institute research, 31% have considered selling their property because of pandemic-related economic hardship. The loss of these homes to the national affordable rental inventory means a loss of both affordability across the country and BIPOC landlords.
“According to our quarterly surveys, Black and Brown landlords were, not surprisingly, the hardest hit by the pandemic, yet they were the most willing to work with renters on flexible repayment plans,” said Avail’s Ryan Coon.
Emergency rental assistance programs have been created to help address loss of rent in the wake of the pandemic. Yet data from Avail shows that while owners of small properties are eligible to access federal and state rental assistance programs, only 60% of the landlords they serve and 43% of their residents were aware of assistance in May of 2021.
3. We need innovative approaches to tackle eviction and protect properties.
“It takes an all-in approach to rebuild our housing system and dismantle the systemic inequities within it,” said Ruby Bolaria Shifrin of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Bolaria Shifrin said CZI took an innovative approach to eviction prevention – asking the question: “How do we best intervene to preserve naturally occurring affordable homes that are housing vulnerable populations, more likely to be owned by BIPOC owners and at risk of being moved up to higher rent units – or left to deteriorate?”
In Southern California, CZI made the commitment to support the Local Rental Owner Collaborative, investing in BIPOC owners of 2 to 20-home properties by providing rental assistance, financial consulting and funding for necessary repairs and maintenance in partnership with Enterprise and the Coalition for Responsible Community Development.
4. Building trust and simplifying processes are key to helping residents stay in their homes.
To help small landlords and their residents access resources, HousingLink has spent time building the trust of landlords and breaking down barriers to accepting rental assistance.
Working with partners like local landlord associations, immigrant organizations, housing authorities and government agencies is critical to their communication strategy.
Also important, said HousingLink’s Sue Speakman-Gomez: providing information in a variety of formats, including digital, paper and mailings, and offering micro-trainings for landlords.
These systems, tools and relationships were vital to HousingLink’s success connecting residents and landlords to critical public emergency rental housing resources.
Critical questions from the audience
What strategies hold the most promise for protecting residents in unrestricted properties?
Our panelists suggested a range of strategies, including:
- Requiring longer notice before filing an eviction, which is part of Minnesota’s moratorium off ramp program.
- Requiring landlords to provide residents with information about rental assistance, legal aid and mediation services before filing an eviction.
- Providing information to residents and landlords in multiple languages, and encouraging both landlords and courts to pause eviction proceedings for tenants with pending applications for emergency rental assistance.
- Cutting the timeframe and red tape to get emergency rental assistance flowing.
Panelists also stressed that affordable housing must be considered infrastructure. We need to preserve what we have and build more to reduce backlogs of need.
Collaboration is crucial, according to the panelists. We must listen to property owners to understand their pain points and what assistance they need to maintain their properties.
At the same time, communities, including residents who live in affordable properties, must be at the table to create solutions. Working with trusted community partners and housing agencies, along with landlords and residents, is an essential ingredient for successful eviction prevention.
Should land trusts, co-ops, Community Opportunity to Purchase (COPA) and Tenant Opportunity to Purchase (TOPA) be considered as strategies to preserve unrestricted rental homes?
Absolutely! Every ownership model, especially those that place long-term restrictions on properties and give residents property ownership, should be explored to ensure renters remain in their homes. Enterprise and our partners support these and other strategies to empower communities and ensure housing stability.
More About This Webinar Series
Our panel on How to Harness the Legal System to Prevent Evictions offered strategies to prevent evictions through, and in partnership, with the judicial system.
Landlords as Stewards of Housing Stability explored innovative ways to support residents and protect the nation’s affordable housing stock.
Register for our November 16 webinar, the last event in the series: Moving Upstream: Housing Stability to Prevent Evictions and Address Racial Disparities.
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