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Five million households did not make their rent or mortgage payments in December, and 2.3 million renters and 1.2 million mortgagors said they feel they are at risk of eviction or foreclosure or would be forced to move in the next 30 days, according to fourth-quarter 2020 research recently released by the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Research Institute for Housing America (RIHA).

The new fourth-quarter 2020 findings on housing and student loan payments come from RIHA’s study, Housing-Related Financial Distress During the Pandemic, which was previously released in September 2020 (second-quarter findings) and October 2020 (third-quarter findings).

The percentage of homeowners and renters behind on their payments has decreased since last year’s second quarter. In December, 7.9% of renters (2.62 million households) missed, delayed or made a reduced payment, while 5.0% (2.38 million homeowners) missed their mortgage payment. The proportion of student debt borrowers who missed a monthly payment climbed to approximately 43% of borrowers in December from the steady share of around 40% since May.

“Gradual improvements in the labor market and economy helped more renters and homeowners make their housing payments at the end of 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause financial stress for millions of Americans, and particularly for those who rent and have student loan debt,” said Gary V. Engelhardt, professor of economics in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. “Despite 5 million renters and homeowners not making their December payment, fewer believe they are at risk of eviction, a foreclosure or would be forced to move in the next 30 days. This confidence is perhaps an indication that direct checks and enhanced unemployment benefits, rental assistance, mortgage forbearance programs and a federal eviction moratorium have so far been effective in keeping people in their homes.”

Added Engelhardt, “A rapid rollout of vaccines will hopefully slow the virus and lead to a larger reopening of the economy later this year. This would help the labor market and give affected households the opportunity to get back to work, resume their housing and student debt payments, and pay back past-due amounts.”

Source: MBA

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