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Paying Rent is Still a challenge Part 2 of a 3-part series

Did you know that over 148,000 Bay Area residents are NOT caught up on their rent payments?
September 1, 2021

As mentioned in part 1 of this blog series, last year, United Way Bay Area worked closely with our community partners to coordinate outreach for the 2020 census count across the eight-counties we serve within the Bay Area region (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano). Our programs and partners who deliver daily services like Earn It! Keep it! Save It!, 211, SparkPoint, and The Labor Community Services Liaison program aided the state in reaching some of the hardest to count communities (young people, low-income families, people experiencing homelessness, renters and shared housing, and non-English speakers), prioritizing an accurate count which would then inform funding streams and policies in the Bay Area. In the face of a pandemic, our vast network of individual, nonprofit, business, and government partners in the region came together to support the state’s efforts to invest in community intentionally, equitably, and efficiently. As the pandemic unfolded, and residents faced increased economic and housing insecurity, the value of real-time data became increasingly clear. In addition to the 2020 census count, UWBA monitored the Household Pulse Survey data to determine how families fare with housing in the midst of a pandemic. This information is crucial in aiding our programs and advocacy efforts to push for an extension of the eviction moratorium while continuing to fight for stronger solutions. With roughly 48% of residents fearing eviction, and 83% of those fearing eviction experiencing a loss of income, the need for a solution beyond AB832 is hard to ignore.

Here’s a look at the numbers from June 23 to July 5 2020:

What does paying rent look like for our Bay Area communities? 

PAST: While roughly 83% of those surveyed stated that their households were caught up on rent, when broken down by race, there is a large gap between white households and Black/African American households. Roughly 90% of white households are currently caught up on rent. However, only about 72% of Black/African American households were caught up on rent. In other words, 41,918 of Black/African American households are NOT caught up on rent. To put this into context, 41,918 households is roughly the size of Campbell, CA.

FUTURE: White residents were the most confident in paying rent across groups, with 80% of white residents reporting “high confidence” on the survey. Roughly 7% of white residents reported slight or no confidence. Conversely, only 37% of Hispanic/Latinx residents reported “high confidence”, the lowest percentage across groups. Additionally, roughly 47% of Hispanic/Latinx residents reported slight or no confidence, the highest percentage across groups. In other words, 108,429 Hispanic/Latinx residents have less than “moderate confidence” on paying next month’s rent. To put this into context, 108,429 households is roughly the size of the city of Richmond.

WHY THIS MATTERS: Renters of color, especially Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx women-led households, faced significant housing insecurity prior to the pandemic —making these populations even more vulnerable to COVID’s economic impact on housing. Given that nearly half of Bay Area residents are communities of color, and given our country’s history of segregation and racially and economically exclusive policies that still have a lasting impact, it’s critical we create opportunities to increase access to and strengthen housing security for those who were and still are (by single family zoning, for example) deliberately excluded. Furthermore, an inequitable higher education and workforce system has stifled economic mobility for many people of color, meaning it’s harder for communities of color to even afford a home. Communities of color have lower educational attainment and are disproportionately concentrated in lower income brackets, entering the pandemic with fewer financial and human capital resources. These are the same communities who are overrepresented in the hospitality and retail industry—careers that don’t lend themselves to a work-from-home model (only 20% of Latinx workers and 16% of Black workers were able to telework nationally). Moreover, in addition to general job insecurity, research from UCLA predicts people of color will likely be the last to recover their jobs once employers rehire. This means not only are people of color experiencing higher job loss in low-wage industries, but they are also likely to experience higher levels of debt, pushing them further away from homeownership.

WHAT WE CAN DO: Our SparkPoint centers along with our network of community partners such as the Emergency Assistance Network, have been distributing rent support through the United Way Relief Fund, prioritizing under resourced neighborhoods, and tracking those we’ve served to ensure community members who need the support, receive it.

In addition to addressing communities’ immediate needs like rental relief, it is also important to increase access to and success in higher education and increase pathways to high-wage occupations. We hope to continue working with nonprofit agencies and schools in the Bay Area to support our youth and adults in career exploration and help them get ready for the next step that could promote economic mobility. We also hope to continue working with policymakers to increase access to higher education without compromising basic needs. The road to stable, secure housing will require all of us to come together from all sectors. Our communities deserve to think beyond survival. With access to healthy, stable, and affordable housing, we can help our communities thrive across the region.

Special note: This is the second part of a three-part blog series. Stay tuned for the release of part three scheduled to be released in a couple weeks. View the first blog in the series titled “Paying Rent is Still A Challenge Part 1

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