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American Renters Will Owe Up to $34 Billion in Back Rent by January

Published on September 28, 2020

New Report Demonstrates the Urgent Need for Federal Emergency Rental Aid

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. renters will owe up to $34 billion in past-due rent by January, increasing eviction filings and imposing punishing financial hardship on millions in just a few months, according to a report released today by the National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA).

“This analysis is more proof that a huge wave of evictions and additional financial pain will crash on the American economy soon unless Congress authorizes emergency aid to renters,” said NCSHA Executive Director Stockton Williams.

The report, produced by STOUT, estimates roughly 10 – 14 million renter households — home to 23 – 34 million renters — were behind on their rent by a total of roughly $12 – $17 billion as of September 14.

These renters will owe $25 – $34 billion by January, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide eviction moratorium expires. This rent shortfall estimate does not include any interest or fees landlords may charge, as allowed by the CDC eviction moratorium.

By January 2021, more than 8 million renter households — home to more than 20 million renters — could experience an eviction filing, according to the report, which assumes that landlords will file an eviction notice if a tenant is three months or more behind in rent payments.

“Even renters who avoid eviction will be forced to make painful tradeoffs,” Williams said. “They will go without food and healthcare and take on debt that will drain their resources for months and years to come.”

The report shows the current and projected rent shortfall and estimated potential eviction filings in every state. For example:

State Estimated Range of Rent Shortfall
by January 2021
Estimated Potential Eviction Filings
by January 2021
Arizona $461 million – $630 million 150,000
Colorado $469 million – $666 million 140,000
Florida $2.1 billion – $2.7 billion 640,000
Iowa $161 million – $211 million   70,000
Maine $55 million – $81 million   20,000
Michigan $603 million – $808 million 240,000
North Carolina $632 million – $824 million 240,000
Pennsylvania $697 million – $958 million 240,000
South Carolina $329 million – $429 million 120,000
Wisconsin $345 million – $465 million 140,000


The catastrophic economic damage is not limited to renters. It also hurts small businesses and results in less funding for essential local services, such as schools, safety, and sanitation.

According to NCSHA’s analysis of data from the National Apartment Association, America’s accrued apartment rent burden could result in up to:

  • $6.8 – $9.2 billion in reduced apartment payroll expenses, which includes the salaries of property managers, maintenance staff, contractors, and others
  • $3.5 – $4.8 billion in cuts to local property tax revenue to fund teachers, police, firefighters, and other critical personnel
  • $2.5 – $3.4 billion in deferred maintenance and delayed repairs necessary to maintain health and safety for renters.[1]

State housing finance agencies in 33 states have stood up emergency rental assistance programs in the last six months, but they will not be able to meet the current and coming overwhelming need without more federal support.

NCSHA has joined many other housing organizations in calling on Congress to make major investments immediately in the Emergency Shelter Grants program and Housing Assistance Fund proposed program, which states could use to provide emergency rental assistance. Federal assistance must be sufficient to alleviate the harm renters and landlords have already experienced and ensure renters can remain stably housed until the economy has fully recovered.

About the National Council of State Housing Agencies
For more than 50 years, state housing finance agencies (HFAs) have played a central role in the nation’s affordable housing system, delivering financing to make possible the purchase, development, and rehabilitation of affordable homes and rental apartments for low- and middle-income households.

The National Council of State Housing Agencies is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization created to advance, through advocacy and education, the efforts of the nation’s state HFAs and their partners to provide affordable housing to those who need it. NCSHA’s vision: An affordably housed nation.

MEDIA CONTACT: Lisa Bowman, Director of Marketing and Communications

[1]These estimates are based on figures cited by Robert Pinneagar, president and chief executive officer of the National Apartment Association, in a May 11 op-ed in the Washington Post, “The long-term impact of unpaid rent.”