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Coronavirus Crisis Threatens Housing Security For Millions Of Americans

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After being laid off or furloughed in response to the outbreak, millions of Americans are struggling to make rent or monthly mortgage payments. What's being done to help people facing housing insecurity and shore up real estate markets amid the coronavirus crisis?

The Great Recession of 2008 effectively paralyzed the U.S. housing market. Could the coronavirus-provoked economic downturn have a similar effect? How was housing affected by previous pandemics?

The federal government has put a moratorium on foreclosures and is allowing payment deductions or deferrals up to one year on mortgages backed by Freddie, Fannie or the Federal Housing Adminstration for homeowners experiencing loss of income or employment due to the outbreak. 

But the moratorium doesn't help the 5 million homeowners with loans that aren't government backed or the country's more than 40 million renters -- many of whom were already rent-burdened and facing a lack of affordable housing options even before the crisis.

The Texas Supreme Court halted all evictions through April 20 -- a stopgap measure offering only tempory relief to tenants as rent hasn't been waived, just postponed. Payment will eventually come due, putting families at risk of being kicked out.

What rights do tenants have in a public health crisis? How are landlords dealing with coronavirus-related tenant issues and the loss of income from their rental properties, even if just temporarily?

Individuals and families experiencing homelessness are particularly at risk for exposure to coronavirus, as they are not able to shelter in place. What's being done to get people off the streets and somewhere safe?

How could Congress' recently passed $2 trillion stimulus package help with mortgage relief, rental assistance and aid for people experiencing homelessness? What assistance could state and local governments provide? Will the mortgage industry offer any relief?

How is economic uncertainty affecting the real estate market? Are developers putting off new home construction or moving forward as planned? Have builders' supply lines been disrupted?

Have social distancing rules and shelter-in-place orders halted the buying and selling of homes and commercial property? Will rock-bottom interest rates keep the market moving or are prospective buyers putting their dream house on hold?

What can be done to keep the crisis from disproportionately affecting housing for low-income and minority families? What resources are available to tenants and homeowners struggling to make ends meet?

What can the fallout from this crisis tell us about the need for more affordable housing and better policy on housing security?

Guests:

 

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call  833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Thursday, April 2.

Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.