With the U.S on the Verge of a Housing Crisis, Black Women Face the Greatest Risk

As state eviction and foreclosure moratoriums quickly expire, the devastating economic effects of the coronavirus heighten.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March created a temporary stopgap on evictions for some––specifically, those residing in federally subsidized housing or housing with federally-backed mortgages. But those relief efforts are expected to expire in the coming weeks.

At the height of the pandemic, 42 states and the District of Columbia implemented moratoriums on evictions, effectively covering millions of renters. However, now just 18 states continue to provide protections.

In the midst of record-high unemployment rates and a rising death count, experts predict a widespread housing crisis.

With the U.S on the Verge of a Housing Crisis, Black Women Face the Greatest Risk
A “Housing as a Human Right” march in Oakland, Calif., on January 20, 2020. (Peg Hunter / Flickr)

Wake Forest University law professor Emily Benfer explained the far-reaching detriment of the expiration of the moratoriums:

“If [moratoriums] lift before federal financial support is in place, the United States will plummet into a major eviction crisis that will have negative consequences for all of society—because when the rent isn’t paid, mortgages and property taxes go unpaid, so states, cities, school districts, landlords, banks, the housing market, entire communities suffer as a result.”

In keeping with existing injustices brought to light by the pandemic and economic recession, people of color will be most hard hit by the expiration of federal aid: Forty-four percent of Black tenants and 41 percent of Latino tenants reported they had little or no confidence in their ability to pay rent.

In Milwaukee, for example––where a state eviction moratorium expired in May––nearly 1,3000 evictions were filed in June, two-thirds of which were filed in majority-Black neighborhoods.

George Gardner III, an attorney at Legal Services NYC, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to low-income New Yorkers, stated, “It’s really unfathomable that we would put low- income, already marginalized groups through even greater uncertainty.”  


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Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020

A bill known as the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020, sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), extends the CARES Act’s eviction moratorium through March 2021. It would allocate $100 billion to coronavirus rental assistance programs and $75 billion to relief funds for homeowners.

The proposed bill passed in the House on June 29 but will likely be stopped in the Senate. 

With the U.S on the Verge of a Housing Crisis, Black Women Face the Greatest Risk
A homeless encampment in Milwaukee on August 30, 2019. (Charles Edward Miller / Flickr)

The HEROES Act

On May 12, the Democratic-controlled House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, passed a $3 trillion relief bill in May, the HEROES Act.

The Act proposes almost $200 billion in additional funding for housing and homelessness programs, including:

  • a 12-month eviction moratorium from all rental housing. (This would replace the CARES Act’ 120-day moratorium just for renters in federal housing.)
  • a 60-day mortgage forbearance for homeowners, and a $75 billion Homeowner Assistance Fund to provide homeowners with mortgage assistance.
  • a $100 billion emergency rental assistance proposal known as the “Emergency Rental Assistance Act and Rental Market Stabilization Act,” which could be used for rental assistance and rent-related costs.
  • $11.5 billion in Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) to treat and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks among homeless populations—far less than $15.5 billion experts say is needed to allow shelters to practice social distancing and to address the needs of unsheltered homeless. 
  • $1 billion to fund 100,000 emergency housing vouchers geared toward those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, as well as those fleeing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. 

The Act has not been taken up for a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. In June, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.) remained hesitant. The White House backed McConnell and issued a veto threat of the HEROES Act. 

Suddenly, however, the GOP is acting more urgently, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) going so far as to say, “We need to get off our ass and get this done.” Congress faces more pressure to act on coronavirus relief efforts which, without proper attention, will expire and leave many in dire economic circumstances.

The Disproportionate Impact of Evictions on Black Women

Evictions disproportionately affect Black women, according to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) data. Their greater eviction rates are attributed to systemic discrimination that includes staggering pay disparities and wealth gaps.

Additionally, Black renters were nearly twice as likely as white renters to have an eviction filed against them, the ACLU found.

With the U.S on the Verge of a Housing Crisis, Black Women Face the Greatest Risk
Black women in Massachusetts were more likely to receive eviction notices that were later dismissed. (ACLU / The Eviction Lab)

Women in particular face other forms of discrimination that make them more susceptible to eviction—for example, women are more likely to have children and be domestic violence survivors. Often, racial discrimination pairs with these other discriminations that disproportionately affect women.

With the U.S on the Verge of a Housing Crisis, Black Women Face the Greatest Risk
Landlords filed double the rate (or higher) of evictions against Black women renters as white renters. (ACLU / The Eviction Lab)

Eviction have long-lasting effects, as tenants with prior evictions are often disregarded for other housing opportunities. As such, eviction screening policies perpetuate discrimination especially against low-income Black women.

Eviction policies and tenant screenings thus exacerbate economic hardship and injustice for low-income Black women—and stand in violation of the Fair Housing Act.


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About

Jenna Ashendouek is an editorial intern at Ms. and a student at Tufts University pursuing a BA in International Relations with a minor in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies.