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The Push for Policymakers to Utilize ‘Groundbreaking’ Housing Data

DataResearchers from the think tank New America said that with eviction or foreclosure costing millions of Americans their homes every year, they are asking policymakers to more effectively leverage their new county-specific data on housing loss to target coronavirus aid.

For the first time, the researchers are coupling county-level eviction and mortgage foreclosure data to create a National Housing Loss Index. It compares 2,200 U.S. counties for which data was available.

The index helped shine a light on those areas likely to be most severely hit as U.S. housing campaigners raise the flag of a potential surge in evictions and foreclosed induced by COVID-19, said report co-author Yuliya Panfil.

“Because the same communities tend to be impacted over and over, by looking at where housing loss has been the most acute, we could help predict where COVID-related instability is going to happen,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Between 2014 and 2018, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are states with the highest rates of eviction and foreclosure. What’s more, in recent months, they’ve reported a surge in cases.

A temporary moratorium on evictions through December recently was announced.

Mainly non-white areas dominated by renters where residents often have no health insurance could absorb the higher rates of loss housing, according to the report. Simultaneously, those forced to move in with friends and family in the midst of the outbreak, the report also stated, could be the most prone to the virus. 

“In a context where social distancing is important, we see housing loss as even more of a trigger for increased infections,” said Panfil, who directs New America’s Future of Property Rights program.

Hours after President Trump announced a suspension of foreclosures and evictions for mortgages backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), official statements from FHFA and HUD clarified that the policy will extend at least 60 days.

This is contrary to earlier reporting that pegged the window for these suspensions as extending “until the end of April.”

During an earlier press conference, President Trump had said, “Today I am also announcing that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing immediate relief to renters and homeowners by suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April. We are working very closely with Dr. Ben Carson and everybody from HUD.”

Added HUD Secretary Dr. Benjamin Carson: “Today’s actions will allow households who have an FHA-insured mortgage to meet the challenges of COVID-19 without fear of losing their homes and help steady market concerns.” The health and safety of the American people is of the utmost importance to the Department, and the halting of all foreclosure actions and evictions for the next 60 days will provide homeowners with some peace of mind during these trying times, he continued.

About Author: Chuck Green

Chuck Green has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and others covering various industries, including real estate, business and banking, technology, and sports.
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