This article is the last in our series of Paying Rent is Still a Challenge. In part 1 we highlighted how United Way Bay Area programs aided the state in reaching some of the hardest to count communities to prioritize an accurate 2020 census count, which would then inform local funding streams and policies. In part 2, we discussed the value of real-time data, which helped determine how families fare with housing during a pandemic. We close this series with an overview of what happens next when families are struggling to pay rent as well as basic needs.
What does paying rent look like across income levels?
PAST: Roughly 90,325 residents with an income of less than $74,999 reported that they are NOT caught up on rent. To put that into context, 90,325 residents is roughly the size of the city of Livermore, CA.
FUTURE: 156,290 residents with an income of less than $74,999 reported slight or no confidence in paying next month’s rent. To put into context, 156,290 residents is roughly the size of the city of Hayward, CA. 116,986 residents who showed “slight confidence” or “no confidence” in paying next month’s rent reported a loss of income while 130,102 residents maintained income, but still had slight or no confidence in paying rent. This likely indicates that having an income only makes a slight difference for residents who anticipate being unable to pay next month’s rent.
How are renters paying for their needs?
PAST: Of those who are not caught up on rent, 73,190 residents used credit cards or loans to cover their needs in the past week while 67,036 borrowed from friends or family. To put into context, that is a total number of residents roughly TWICE the size of Walnut Creek, CA. Roughly 121,000 residents used unemployment insurance, stimulus payments, or SNAP benefits to pay for their needs in the last week. To put into context, 121,000 residents is roughly the size of the city of Berkeley, CA.
FUTURE: 93,693 renters using credit cards or loans to pay for last week’s expenses reported slight or no confidence in paying next month’s rent, while 70,264 renters borrowed money from friends or family. To put that into context, that is a total number of residents roughly the size of Hayward. Over 195,000 renters who used unemployment insurance, stimulus payments, or SNAP benefits to pay for last week’s expenses reported slight or no confidence in being able to pay next month’s rent. To put into context, 195,000 renters is roughly TWICE the size of Vacaville, CA.
WHY THIS MATTERS: Pre-Pandemic data shows 25% of households in the Bay Area region fall below the Real Cost Measures (a poverty measure that points the way to a decent standard of living and provides insight into the different challenges faced by families of different compositions and stages of life). On average, a family of four in the Bay Area region would need roughly $40,000 more than what they’re currently earning to meet basic needs, including housing. While it’s important to fight for affordable housing, that alone will not solve the Bay Area’s housing crisis. In addition to fighting for more housing, it is also important to improve financial stability across the region— especially for communities of color that are overrepresented in low-wage occupations.
WHAT WE CAN DO: We can work together to eliminate barriers like fines and fees, debilitating punishments for those who are unable to pay penalties, negative impact on credit scores, and other policies that often pin residents in a cycle of debt. We also hope to work with trusted partners and policymakers to maximize current income supports such as the earned income tax credit (EITC) which has been proven to be one of the most successful tools to reduce poverty.
Find a free tax site to file your taxes with the help from our experts to see what credits you may be eligible for. The stress of filing taxes should not prevent you from accessing the benefits you are entitled to.
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 third and final part of a three-part blog series. View the previous blogs here:
Paying Rent is still a challenge Part 1 of a 3 part series
Paying Rent is still a challenge Part 2 of a 3 part series