Study: More Than Half Of Jacksonville Renters To Face Hardship If CARES Act Expires

Jul 27, 2020

The $600 weekly temporary federal unemployment benefit that was enacted due to COVID-19 is scheduled to expire at the end of month, raising fears that evictions and other hardships will follow for millions of Americans.

Zillow economist Jeff Tucker said on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Monday that more than half of Jacksonville’s renters, 51%, will have to devote more than half their income to rent, assuming the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ) Act is allowed to expire.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines households that must devote more than 50% of income to housing as having a "severe" housing-cost burden.

“This [COVID-19 economic consequences] really hammered the budgets of unemployed people, and that is the millions of people who have a lot of trouble actually paying their rent,” said Tucker.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

Nationwide, Zillow found if the additional federal unemployment benefits are allowed to expire, the share of households facing a severe housing burden will skyrocket from about 3% of renting households to 41%.  

“Right now, with an extra $600 a week, that’s pretty much solving the problem,” said Tucker.

Related: Listen to the full interview with Tucker

While a sizable number of homeowners will no doubt also face hardships, Tucker said renters stand to be the hardest hit.

Not only do renters often have higher housing burdens and lower incomes, but a larger share of them are high contact-intensity workers, according to Zillow.

High contact-intensity workers are employees who must continue to work in high-touch environments, such as hairstylists and food service workers, as opposed to those who can work from home during the pandemic. 

Nationally, high contact-intensity workers contribute 69% of the median renter household’s income, whereas these occupations make up 50% of the median owner household’s income. The high contact-intensity workers within renter households are much more likely to be the single earner or breadwinner, Zillow found.

They also are likely to have lower incomes than their homeowner counterparts — the median renter household’s income from these occupations is $32,000, more than a third lower than the high contact-intensity income of homeowner households, which is $49,800, according to Zillow.

"Families are going to face high rates of eviction, homelessness, food insecurity, hunger," said Indivar Dutta-Gupta, co-executive director of Georgetown's Center on Poverty and Inequality and an economic adviser to the campaign of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, in an interview with NPR.

Washington lawmakers are working on a new stimulus package that could include additional federal unemployment support, but NPR reports the two parties and the White House are at odds over the major pillars of the legislation and how much it should cost.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.