Latino renters have little to no confidence in covering housing costs

Hugo Balta

The COVID-19 pandemic has widened gaps that people of color face in the Massachusetts housing market.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 315,000 Massachusetts tenants say they aren’t sure if they will be able to pay rent this month. The lack of confidence is worse among Hispanics-Latinos who have been disproportionately impacted.

In the recently released report, White tenants were about 1,7 times as likely to have high confidence about making August rent as Hispanic or Latino renters. About 30 percent of Hispanic or Latino renters have no or only slight confidence in covering housing costs for another month, compared to just 14 percent of White renters with the same uncertainty.

MIT researcher Ben Walker told CBS Boston the pandemic has widened gaps that people of color face in the Massachusetts housing market, pointing to a past City Life / Vida Urbana report that 78 percent of eviction filings in Boston occurred in Census tracts where a majority of the population was nonwhite.

“Expanded unemployment insurance covered a lot of people,” Walker said. “It helps a lot of people. But it didn’t cover undocumented workers and it didn’t cover independent contractors working different kinds of gig jobs. A lot of people who have been most exposed to COVID-19, who have been forced back to work on the front lines, are Black and brown workers in Black and brown communities. Their experiences and their demands for justice should be the center and the priority of however Massachusetts determines to solve the housing crisis.”

As many as one in three renter households could soon face eviction as Massachusetts struggles with a worst-in-the-nation unemployment rate. Numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor last month puts Massachusetts at 14.5% unemployment — still one of the highest rates in the country, but now behind California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, New York, and Puerto Rico.

Under a temporary ban Gov. Charlie Baker, most evictions and foreclosures are paused in the state until Oct. 17. The existing moratorium does not exempt renters or property owners from paying rent or mortgages, though it does temporarily prevent removal for failure to pay if COVID-19 created a financial hardship.