SACRAMENTO – As the threat of Congress allowing enhanced unemployment insurance benefits to expire and another month’s rent is due for millions of out-of-work Californians, a new report from the California Budget & Policy Center shows the immense economic pressure low-income households and Black, Latinx, immigrant, and undocumented Californians are under to maintain safe housing and avoid homelessness amid the pandemic.
The report — Staying Home During California’s Housing Affordability Crisis — highlights that even before the outbreak of COVID-19, housing costs relative to incomes coupled with discriminatory housing policies has been one of the primary drivers of why Californians struggle each month to pay for their rent or mortgages. Now, as millions of Californians have lost their jobs — and women and people of color who earned low wages are taking the biggest job loss hits — paying for housing and other basic needs has widened the economic and racial inequities in accessing and keeping an affordable home.
“What we see is that families have struggled to afford housing due to high costs and years of discrimination, and now combined with job losses — all this puts Californians today at significant risk of losing a home or being unable to pay rent as the COVID-19 pandemic goes on,” said Aureo Mesquita, Research Associate for the California Budget & Policy Center and co-author of the new report. “Policymakers must consider how to ensure the health and economic security of families now, and opportunities to advance racial justice across our communities through housing policy as we see just how much Black, Latinx, and immigrant Californians have been pushed into unaffordable housing.”
Among the key findings in the report based on the most recent data available from 2018, it’s estimated:
- Nearly half of Black Californians and more than 4 in 10 Latinx Californians lived in households that spent more than 30% of their incomes toward housing.
- About 38% of Pacific Islander Californians live in cost-burdened households, and almost 1 in 5 American Indian or Alaskan Native individuals in California live in a household with severe housing cost burden.
- 41% of California immigrants living in cost-burdened households and 20% live in severely cost-burdened households.
- 51% of Californians who are undocumented live in households with unaffordable housing, and about 1 in 4 (26%) live in severely cost-burdened households.
- More than 4 in 10 households statewide (41%) had unaffordable housing costs.
- More than 1 in 5 households statewide (21%) faced severe housing cost burdens, spending more than half of their income toward housing expenses.
- More than half of renter households paid over 30% of income toward housing.
- More than a quarter of renter households paid more than half of their income toward housing.
- Eight in 10 households with incomes of less than 200% of the federal poverty line were housing cost-burdened
- Almost 6 in 10 of these households spent more than half their income on housing.
For out-of-work Californians, the consequences are severe as enhanced unemployment insurance benefits funded by the federal government are set to expire at the end of this month. Californians who are eligible for these benefits will be left with just state unemployment benefits, which usually replace less than half of workers’ lost earnings. Californians who are undocumented are not eligible for state or federal unemployment benefits.
“It just does not add up for California families to be able to support their families and our state economy when we look at the cost of housing across the state, incomes, and now federal support being pulled out from under people amid the pandemic,” said Sara Kimberlin, Senior Policy Analyst with the California Budget & Policy Center and co-author of the new report.
Policymakers can act now to help Californians with their immediate housing cost needs. Congress can extend the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, especially as many people cannot safely return to work and earn an income. Meanwhile, state policymakers can advance policies that directly reduce families’ housing costs, protect tenants from unfair evictions or rent increases, and increase the supply of housing, especially for people in low-income households.
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