Rent Payments in a Pandemic: Analysis of Affordable Housing in New York City

In partnership with the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) and its members, as well as with feedback and support from the Housing Crisis Research Collaborative, the Furman Center compiled a novel data set of detailed information on rent charges and payments at the tenant level. Using these data, this report examines how rent payments and rental arrears (accumulated rent owed) changed for tenants residing in this sample provided by affordable housing owners and managers.

Initial analysis indicates that monthly payment rates (rental payments as a share of rent charges) decreased beginning after March 2020, though rates remained at or above 90 percent; total rental arrears also increased more quickly beginning after March 2020. The overall share of households in rental debt increased slightly (by 3 percentage points between September 2019 and September 2020) while the number of households in extreme debt more than doubled. Between March and September 2020, payment rates for tenants with subsidies were consistently higher and the growth in rental arrears consistently lower than for tenants without subsidies. Tenant households that struggled to pay rent in 2019 were less likely to pay their rent after the shutdown, and experienced large increases in rent debt.