June 29, 2021
A steady return to normal, pre-pandemic routines brings with it a general sense of optimism — optimism that the economic challenges of the past year will subside, that more families and friends will be able to travel and see each other again, and that people will be able to return to work without concern for their health or the health of their loved ones. The return to normal, however, is not without some concern — particularly for renters and property owners, for whom the pandemic caused job losses and rental income disruptions.
While the unemployment rate has dropped from 14.8% in April 2020 to 5.8% in May 2021, there are still many renters who experienced substantial financial stress during the pandemic and may yet still be unemployed or underemployed. Moreover, a return to full employment does not address all the missed income due to unemployment. A significant focal point of this concern is what will happen when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium ends.
As eviction moratoriums come to an end, rent subsidies take on an increasingly important role in both keeping renters in their homes and property owners current on their mortgages. When viewed in the aggregate and from a distance, it appears there is adequate renter support in place to cover the transition for both renters and property owners. The federal government has allocated an estimated $47 billion in funding to states through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
However, access to these funds — and the timely distribution of them — is vital to the return to normal for so many, and it is important to focus not just on the aggregate solutions, but also on those who might fall through the cracks, who might not be able to fill out required forms or know where to go for help. Much work has been done to improve outreach and access to funds throughout the pandemic, and much work will likely still be required.
Freddie Mac has made materials and directions available on our website and through our nationwide renter helpline so that renters and property owners can better access resources needed to repay back rents and limit evictions, whether or not they own or live in properties that have Freddie Mac financing. We have also made materials available directly to our Optigo® lenders to provide to every property owner with a Freddie Mac loan.
With challenges of this magnitude, there are bound to be inefficiencies and missteps, but there are also valuable lessons to be learned and new innovations that can help not just the renters and property owners of today, but also those of tomorrow, as we transition to a new post-pandemic normal.
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