Rent Payments in Affordable Housing During the Pandemic: The Role of Rental Subsidies and the Safety Net

In this brief, the NYU Furman Center and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley join together as members of the Housing Crisis Research Collaborative to conduct updated and additional analysis of renters and rental payments in primarily affordable housing portfolios in New York City and California. We are able to elevate similarities in trends and provide a more complete picture of the challenges facing both renters and property owners as they exit the depths of the economic crisis. The main outcome we focus on is change in the number of households that have missed a full month’s rent payment at least once—a form of nonpayment we can measure consistently across datasets and time, and a set of tenants that is likely accumulating significant rent debt. Within this broader portfolio of affordable housing in which rents (and incomes) are generally restricted, many renters also receive housing subsidies that adjust with income. We look in-depth at how renters with and without such subsidies fared after the onset of the pandemic. This combined analysis provides insights for policymakers and practitioners working to stabilize tenants hit hardest by the pandemic, and points to the role a housing safety net can play in buffering vulnerable households against economic downturns.