It is a shameful irony that at a time when staying home has been so essential to protecting our health and our communities, an alarming number of families are in danger of eviction.
Housing is much more than a place to live. It is a foundation for success in life. We know that children do better in school, grown-ups do better on the job, and health outcomes improve for everyone when they have a safe, stable, healthy place to call home. America faced a severe housing crisis long before the coronavirus appeared, with nearly half of all renter households considered "rent-burdened." But with the outbreak surging to new heights, the crisis has exploded into a full-blown emergency, as the pandemic has torpedoed many sectors of our economy and destroyed millions of jobs.
Many renters are doing their best, yet U.S. Census data shows more than 10 million renter households are behind on rent, with overdue balances mounting. And as so often is the case, America's struggling underserved communities are most at risk, with Black and Latino residents bearing a disproportionate burden.
For middle- and lower-income residents, government policies have achieved mixed results – at best. Beginning in the 1990s, smart initiatives such as federal empowerment zones, state enterprise zones and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits successfully directed hundreds of millions of dollars of private capital into high-need areas.
Some have viewed the more recent Opportunity Zone program as a way to drive investment in low-income communities, but that vehicle has fallen far short of expectations to ease America's housing affordability crisis.
Directing adequate resources to build new housing, or preserve existing affordable housing, is essential. This is especially true today, when government coffers are running dry and nonprofit assistance is stretched to the breaking point.