COVID-19 and California’s Vulnerable Renters

August 1st was the first rent day since Congress has allowed key CARES Act provisions—like expanded unemployment insurance and a limited eviction moratorium—to expire, leaving hard-hit renters increasingly vulnerable to housing insecurity, eviction, and homelessness. 

Today the Terner Center has published new estimates to explore the scale and distribution of the economic impacts of COVID-19 on California’s renters. Using monthly data on unemployment by industry to estimate job losses among renters, we provide insights into how and where this crisis is unfolding, and emphasize that federal and state action must be taken to protect the most vulnerable renters.

Our analysis finds that: 

  • While California saw a slight rebound in jobs compared to April and May, the COVID-19 pandemic still left more than 2.8 million Californians unemployed in June.
  • Nearly 1 million renter households in California have experienced a job loss as a result of the economic impacts of COVID-19.
  • The lost earnings represent more than half the household income for most of these impacted renters, and that is especially true for lower-income households that are already more likely to be housing cost-burdened.
  • Among the renter households estimated to have experienced a COVID-related job loss, nearly three-quarters include at least one person of color. Those shares are higher among lower-income households, underscoring that a failure to address this looming housing instability will disproportionately impact households of color and deepen systemic inequities.
  • The majority of renter households estimated to be impacted live in single-family or small apartment buildings. This means both that they are less likely to be covered by recent statewide rental protections and that the properties are more likely to be owned by smaller landlords.
  • Finally, three-quarters of these households live in just 10 California counties. By far the largest number—nearly one-third of the estimated impacted renters—live in Los Angeles County. This distribution of vulnerable renter households has significant implications for the cities and counties where they are located. Increased eviction or homelessness rates will strain safety nets already stretched thin by the ongoing state housing crisis, and local budgets will be impacted by lost tax revenue.

Read more on the Terner Center website here. Explore county by county estimates with our interactive map or the downloadable appendix tables included in the analysis.