Housing in Declared Emergencies


Natural disasters, public health emergencies, and other crises can wreak havoc on the nation’s housing system. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent deep recession left 30–40 million Americans at risk for eviction. Black and Hispanic/Latino communities were especially at risk. Overall, hey are more likely than white individuals to be housing cost-burdened (spending more than the recommended 30 percent of their gross income on housing). And they are more likely to face eviction. For example, during the first month of the COVID-19 state of emergency in Boston, over three-quarters of eviction filings were in communities of color. Homeowners of color, likewise, have been more likely than white homeowners to face potential foreclosure during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Federal, state, and local policymakers all play important roles in fostering housing stability during declared emergencies. In the COVID-19 pandemic, federal, state, and local policymakers put in place moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions. But with the federal eviction moratorium ending in late 2021, along with many state and local eviction bans, a sharp spike in eviction filings occurred nationwide. Financial assistance to help make housing payments remains critical for renters and homeowners with low and moderate incomes so they do not fall behind. And those who fall behind should have access to reasonable repayment plans after the crisis has subsided to repay the full amount due. 



Housing in declared emergencies

Policymakers should take steps to foster housing stability during declared emergencies. Among the temporary measures they should consider are: 

  • financial assistance to help households with low incomes make rent and mortgage payments, 
  • a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until after the crisis has subsided, and 
  • a reasonable repayment plan for unpaid rent or mortgage payments during the crisis (see also Chapter 10 policy on Foreclosure Prevention). 

Eviction and foreclosure moratoriums should freeze the ability to file for an eviction or foreclosure until the expiration of the moratorium.