SACRAMENTO — A new report by the California Budget & Policy Center highlights the vast housing instability and economic-racial inequity for the state’s 17 million renters before and after COVID-19, and why state and federal policymakers must urgently act on policies to extend eviction moratoriums and rental assistance.
Housing costs are the largest share of most household budgets and access to stable housing is a key driver of economic stability. Yet millions of Californians — in every region of the state — struggle to pay their rents or mortgages each month. The state’s high cost of housing, lack of affordable housing, and stagnant wages block Californians from achieving economic security, including having a stable home. These challenges are especially acute for Black, Latinx, and undocumented Californians. The Budget Center analyzes housing affordability and highlights policy solutions to expand housing and economic opportunities for Californians as well as individuals experiencing homelessness.
Almost 17 million Californians — 44% of all state residents — live in homes that are rented. As the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have unfolded, the urgent needs of California’s renters have rightly received significant attention, including calls for eviction moratoriums, rental assistance, and production of more affordable housing. Many of the millions of workers who have lost jobs fear missing rent payments and losing a safe home for their families at a time when having a safe and stable home is especially vital for both personal health and public health. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, when the state’s economy was booming, millions of California renters struggled to afford the high cost of their housing. In the coming months, California’s local, state, and federal policymakers will have choices and decisions to make about how to address the needs of renters through proposed changes in laws and new policy proposals.
Californians faced a housing affordability crisis even before COVID-19, which has pushed even more people into unstable situations. Nearly 1.2 million children in California ages 0 to 5 lived in households that were paying more than 30% of their income toward housing costs in 2019.
Nearly 270,000 of California’s public K-12 students experienced homelessness in 2018-19. This includes children temporarily staying with other families due to economic hardship, and children living in motels, shelters, vehicles, public spaces, or substandard housing.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, unaffordable housing costs represented one of California’s most pressing challenges – and the job losses triggered by stay-home orders necessary to address the public health emergency threaten to exacerbate this long-standing crisis. Housing affordability is a problem throughout the state when housing costs are compared to incomes, and the Californians who are most affected by the affordability crisis are renters, households with the lowest incomes, people of color, and immigrants. Many of these same Californians are also especially hard hit by the economic effects of the COVID-19 public health crisis.